Another door opens; a book to recommend, and a fresh start.

You know the saying. When one door closes, another door opens. I’ve been feeling pretty discouraged about another project that isn’t looking promising. Then I picked up this book my cousin gave me for my birthday in April:

Susan Branch coverAt the time Carole gave me A Fine Romance, Falling in Love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch, I glanced through it and thought that while it looked cute, I couldn’t imagine actually READING a book that appeared to be hand-written. I had kind of a “what’s-up-with-that” reaction.

I read a lot. A LOT! So, I had other books at home waiting for my attention as well as more books ordered from the library that hadn’t come in yet.

Then two things happened this week. First, I ran out of reading material. When I have nothing to read, I feel a little bit like I used to feel when I’d find myself smoking the last cigarette in a pack, and discovering that it was actually the last pack in the carton. Panic!  Plus, I was meeting cousins Carole and Karen for dinner last night. What if Carole asked me how I liked the book?! It was time to pick up the book and . . . .

Okay. I’m gobsmacked (isn’t that a fun English word?). Branch fell in love with the English

Every page is a tiny work of art

Every page is a tiny work of art

countryside, and I am falling in love with Branch falling in love. It doesn’t take long to become somewhat used to the quirky appearance of the book. It’s in diary form and hand-written, though I’m guessing it’s really her own personal font that she created and is typed as we type everything. How could all the characters be perfect otherwise? If she really wrote all of that by hand, well, I’m just double gobsmacked, I guess. It would be cool enough just to have her own personal handwriting font, as far as I’m concerned.

Then there are the quotes (her choices are perfect) scattered everywhere, along with photos and her enchanting watercolor illustrations, scrumptious-sounding recipes, and more. It’s a hodgepodge of information and graphics, but . . . it works. It’s adorable. And I’m pretty sure that if I were ever lucky enough to actually meet Susan Branch, that SHE would be adorable.

So what about the new door opening? Well, if anyone’s paying attention out there, you will note that I haven’t written much in the past year. I’ve been distracted not only with my day job (must pay the bills, after all), but also with trying to start a new travel business. Day job is good, but the travel dream isn’t materializing, sad to say. Very sad to say, and thus the feelings of discouragement.

Not to say the dream is completely over, but reading Branch’s book is reminding me of the joy of writing. If you love to write, no matter what else is going on, there is a comfort to putting pen to paper or, in my case, fingers to keyboard, and just speaking to the page. My writing will not be as whimsical and delightfully put together as hers, but that’s okay. She is truly gifted and I admire that talent. Good for you, Susan! You rock!

No, my writing is of a different sort. We can’t all be Susan Branch or my hero, Rick Steves, or Paul Theroux or Bill Bryson or any of the other remarkable writers who reflect so brilliantly on their travels.  But for that matter, Bill Bryson can’t be Susan Branch, either (insert light bulb over head).

So my writing about travel and life will be from Kate Mahar’s point of view and in Kate Mahar’s style. I’m not likely to become rich and famous in the process, but you know what? It makes me happy. And I am grateful for whatever level of talent I can claim as my own.

Thank you for reading my blog. And if you are looking for a truly delightful read about England’s  picturesque gardens and castles and warm tributes to Beatrix Potter and afternoon tea with scones and jam and clotted cream (oh, yum – count me in!), then do pick up this beautiful book. And visit to learn more about this lovely, talented lady and her works.

Thank you, Susan Branch, for inspiring me. And a special thank you to my dear cousin, Carole Berthold, for this sweet birthday gift. My birthday has come and gone, but this week was exactly the time when I needed this gift.

About katemahar

Freelance writer and event planner by trade . . . mother/daughter/sister/friend . . . passionate traveler . . . compulsive reader
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11 Responses to Another door opens; a book to recommend, and a fresh start.

  1. Nancy Carroll says:

    Dear, dear, KK…you are one of a kind.
    I have also noted through the years the talents you have, and they are many. You gave me a boost with a job at the Art Center. It had been a dream of mine since it had been built. I was sure I was over my head, but you had recommended me, so I thought perhaps I could really do the job.
    I did the job and loved nearly every minute of that job. Went on to other jobs, and a business of my own. Don’t want to do that again! Time is our worst enemy, but I did things I never dreamed I was capable of doing. I have you to thank.

    I know one thing for certain, anything you set your mind to, it will happen. The travel business has been gobsmacked by the economy, just bad timing. Don’t give up, the economy will pick up, just not as fast as we would like and you will be great.

    I still think writing about the adventures of your furry four feet would be wonderful. Look at how much we all enjoy your little blurbs on your babies.

    Doors are opening all of the time.

  2. Susan Branch says:

    Aren’t you a sweetheart, thank you sweet, individual, original you, Nancy! I am a little gobsmacked myself, suffering from all the same sorts of insecurities as you, stepping over (sometimes) to go on. That’s all it is, going on. Sending love xoxo Susan

  3. Susan Branch says:

    Whoops, I mean Sweet, individual, original YOU, Kate!!! Oh dear. Idiots abound. xoxo

    • katemahar says:

      Oh,Susan! SUSAN BRANCH! You read my blog, AND took the time to write this sweet, encouraging comment. Thank you, Susan. What a lovely way to start a (beautiful, sunny) Saturday morning! Okay. I love you. Now I’m going to ask you a big favor. Would you take a peek at the travel site my dear buddy Ginny and I created? Go to (Yes, Ginny and I are two peas in a pod, so …) I was in England to visit all the places on our tour last November and to put in place our hotels, ground transportation, etc. (ADORED York and the Lake District and the Howgill Fells and – oh, sigh. Did you by any chance have tea at Betty’s in York? Sublime!) Anyway, it looks like our tour focused on felting and embellishment workshops isn’t going to fly. But I am not giving up! And maybe I’m being impulsive and crazy, but oh my goodness. I am picturing another small group tour . . . in Susan’s Footsteps! We couldn’t do two months’ worth, but pieces. Am I insane? Are you sorry you ever commented on my post. I truly am not insane, but I am a dreamer and passionate traveler (have had my own business as a meeting and event planner for 17 years,so I know group logistics planning). I know your life has to be beyond busy, but if you are at all intrigued and like our fledgling Deux Pois concept, well, I’d just love to hear your thoughts. I hope you don’t think I’m a nut. And a pushy nut, at that. I am your new, biggest fan – and not at all like Kathy Bates and James Caan. Promise! XOXO 🙂

  4. thewritegrrl says:

    I know that feeling, being so excited about a new project, wanting it to work so bad, and feeling your heart sink when it isn’t going as you planned, dreamed, needed it to. Escaping to the English Countryside isn’t a bad road to hoe (is that really a common phrase?). I do have a point though, I feel more than believe that every passionate, heartfelt dream will come to fruition. They are alive, don’t ya know. The frustrating part is once alive, these dreams have plans of their own. You follow your little task master of a brain, logically completing the leg work, but whammo, those dreams have a growth plan of their own. Yes, fine and thank you m’am for working so hard to make me happen, but I will sprout when I am damn good and ready. Two peas in a pod, is growing fertile under the soil, ready to spring to life probably a few hundred feet from where you planted it. So keep alert and watch for signs of life. See you later, Kate.

    • katemahar says:

      Thank you. What you wrote gives me chills! Some new things are brewing and serendipity and twists and turns in the road make living the ultimate adventure. Love you, Cindy! See you later – xoxo!

  5. Chris says:

    I am excited to get this book and start reading. Always enjoy your thoughts and I agree with thewritegrrl –so keep going and enjoy the adventure.

  6. Deborah says:

    For years I too find real enjoyment with anything Susan Branch. I am glad she has inspired you as well. I applaud you for trying your dreams Kate and you must keep moving forward.
    You go girl, it is your beginning not your end.

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