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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Susan Branch and Gladys Taber

~ Susan's coconut cake ~
Are you familiar with Susan Branch? No? Oh, then you need to hurry along and visit with her for a while. A good long while. She makes the most delightful art into lots of useful, beautiful things and her calendars have adorned my walls for many years; she adds a lot of happy to my day!
~ June calendar page ~
Her calendars are filled with tidbits of beautifully decorated pages, full of useful information. I keep them...always, both for the information I write on them but, especially, for their charming loveliness. The coconut cake photo, above, is from Susan's May 16th entry and was made for a friend. The part I like best...she found the cake pans and the vintage mixer in an antique shop! I don't lust after the mixer, I have a similar one but in black and silver, however I am seriously envious of the cake pans. I adore cake pans that are stacked and have never had any.
~ Susan's stacked cake pans ~
Each pan is a trifle smaller, or larger depending upon how you look at it -smile-, and makes a stacked, tiered cake. I love this! For years, I've been known as the "Pie Lady" because I make pies for community events, suppers, church suppers, for visiting folks, etc. Now, I'd like to shake it up a bit and become known as the "Cake Lady". Come to think of it, for years I've also been known as the "Sheep Lady". People in town don't really know my name but they know one of my titles; how funny!

So, does anyone know where similar cake pans may be purchased? Please... I love making cakes but am not crazy about the cakes that are the same size. I know, I know...just plain silly but there you have it.

Susan and I both hold Gladys Taber in high esteem and we both have a tidy little collection of Mrs. Taber's books. Mrs. Taber was born a day after me, fifty-four years earlier, in Colorado and Mrs. Taber and Susan share the same birth day. Mrs. Taber was graduated at both Wellesley, 1920, and Lawrence College, 1921 and later taught English and Writing at, among other places, Randolph Macon Women's College in Lynchburg, VA, just down the road from Thistle Cove Farm! I'm a big fan of library book sales or thrift store book sections and it was one or the other where I first found Stillmeadow just outside Southbury, CN. Do be aware when you visit the Stillmeadow link, it's woefully outdated. I do wonder if they managed to save it from developers? As Joni Mitchell once sang, "they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot...oh, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone..." So true and so sad.

Mrs. Taber and a friend, along with all their children, moved from their tiny, for the most part, walk-up NYC apartments, leaving their husbands to work in the city and visit on the weekends. After a while of searching, they found Stillmeadow. Granted, it was in need of a bit of work but the price was lower than market value because the former owner had shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself.

Mrs. Taber wrote in one of her books,  "The furnace was broken but we didn't know it. It had kind of rusted away, we were told afterward. We also did not know how hard it is to manage a Yule log with a dull axe. In fact there were many things we did not know. Even if we had, I think we would have gone ahead just as recklessly.... our basic equipment... consisted of a staggering fortitude and no common sense. But we didn't know it then."

Gladys and Jill, the name in the book she gave her BFF Eleanor, began renovating the house. What they learned, post haste, was "the fatal truth about every sink, toilet, and tub in the house. "Well, one could not expect a man to drain the pipes before shooting his wife," said Jill. "He didn't think of it." "Don't you just love that Yankee pragmatism?", I ask gleefully!

I cannot begin to think how many times I've turned to Mrs. Taber's books for companionship, friendship, comfort, encouragement and to read extremely well written literature. Well, one would expect no less from an English and Writing major, eh? The location of Stillmeadow Farm was in Still Cove, I believe; I wonder if that was in the back of my mind when we found our farm in the Cove in Tazewell, VA? That's certainly one reason we chose Thistle Cove Farm; we had a boatload of thistles, it was in the Cove and it's a farm. I'm so silly and simple! -smile-
~ my Taber books ~

My little collection of books include: The Stillmeadow Road, Stillmeadow Sampler, Stillmeadow Seasons, Stillmeadow Album, Still Cove Journal, Spring Harvest and Another Path. I also have one of her cookbooks which is a joyful addition.

There is a Friends of Gladys Taber Club but, for some quirky reason, the link won't open for me. Frustrating because I'd dearly love to join that small but faithful group.

At your earliest convenience, please visit Susan Branch and plan on spending some time delightful visiting her site, copying her delicious recipes and just plain enjoying yourself. If you're so inclined, sign up for her newsletter, Willard, here. The following quote is from one of her pages:

"Women sit or move to and fro, some old, some young. 
The young are beautiful ~ but the old are more beautiful than the young." 
~ Walt Whitman ~
My gifts to you today are lots of happy, Susan Branch -who graciously said yes when asked if I could use her photos, thank you, Susan!-, Gladys Taber, coconut cake, cake pans and beauty. I need a lot of that in my life; it's been difficult, extremely difficult lately, and each day has been an enormous struggle. Aren't we blessed there are people like Susan Branch and Gladys Taber in this ole frosty world? They spread happy in abundance and bless our lives with their gifts. Thank you!

"But in this season, it is well to reassert that the hope 
of mankind rests in faith.
~ As a man thinketh, so he is ~
Nothing much happens unless you believe in it.
and believing there is hope for the world 
is a way to move toward it."
~ Gladys Taber ~

Blessings ~ happy ~ joy ~ Susan Branch ~ Gladys Taber ~ coconut cake ~ good books ~ a heart that heals ~ a heart that hopes ~

hopefully yours,


  1. I love Susan Branch and I know where her house is as she has a book sale and opens her home once a year. Her real life looks just like her calendars, and everything. Well, her house in California. I don't know about her other one. I will track down Gladys Taber. Her books sound fantastic.
    Good luck on the cake pans. I only have two and they are round. :)

  2. Hello Sandra and Dave:
    How fascinating all of this is and we are now feeling that there is so much to find out, particularly about Mrs. Tabor and her writings and even, maybe, about coconut cake!!

    Sadly we cannot help you over tiered cake tins although we actually do have some, stored away and left over from, if you can believe this, our wedding cake from thirty-one years ago!

  3. Here's the pertinent part of the link that wouldn't open for you:

    If you would like to join with us, please send an email with your name and address to:.

    We will contact you with the address to which to send your check for your dues and other pertinent information. .

    Questions or comments about this website or our group may be directed to:..

    .We hope to hear from you!.

  4. Keep checking Ebay. There are some tiered cake pans, but not ones that are connected. Hope you find them.

  5. 'Sheep Lady', I too love Gladys Taber's writings and remember reading her column ( whole page actually ) in a magazine my mother subscribed to. Now I have only one book, but it is a well-read and beloved book. You are so right about her writing, it is comforting, entertaining, worth re-reading frequently.

    I like Susan Branch too so will have to check out her site.

    Cake pans of differing sizes, I have seen some tiered sizes in Michaels in the cake baking section. I may check that out next time I go and also bring along my 40% off coupon~

  6. You could try They have most things anybody could want.
    I've never heard of either Susan Branch of Gladys Taber, but they do look worth checking out. I took a look at Susan's site already and found it charming. Thank you for that and for your wonderfully informative post today.

  7. I'd never heard of either of those gals..but can't wait to check their sites out. Thank you for another enjoyable post. Hope your day is Happy!! :)

  8. You spread "happy" also, Sandra!

    I'm going to check these ladies out, and have to say, that cake looks delish!!

    Praying for you and Dave in your struggles. ((hugs))

    I could eat that cake right now. Wonderful looking.

    I haven't heard of this artist and writer. Good to know.

    God bless,

  10. Anonymous7:11 PM EDT

    I have always adored Susan's work; it takes my mind to a "happy place!" Thank you for sharing about Gladys Tabor also. I wish you success with finding the cake pans. Keeping you and Dave in my heart and prayers, Sandra.

  11. I think this is the longest post you've ever made, Sandra. I've gone over to your friends blogs/websites and will follow along. I'm going to get a stack of her calendars when her new ones come out. Great gifts for girlfriends. xx's

  12. Blessings and prayers,

  13. I want to plant my face in that cake and just start munching away.

  14. Oh, I like that bit by Walt Whitman. Of course older women are more beautiful --they've had more time to practice! :-) I hadn't thought of Gladys Taber for years. I really enjoyed reading her books and columns. hmmm, might just need to check the library for them and have a re-read. That coconut cake has me drooling. If you intend to make that, give me a heads up so I'll have time to reserve a flight. :-)

  15. Thanks for the reminder about Gladys Taber! I have "Country Chronicle" by her and read it so long ago that it will seem like new to me!
    I'm enjoying the blog!

  16. Beautifully done Val (trying again to leave message, will trick it into not knowing I already messed up) -- I sent a link to this to the Gladys Taber fan club people, and they were ecstatic -- you did a good thing! Have a wonderful day in your beautiful part of the world. xoxo Susan

  17. I have long been a fan of Susan Branch and have several of her books. I read my first Gladys Taber book this winter and must keep my eye out for one to add to my shelf.


  18. I'm off to visit Susan. THank you for the introduction. I have not read any of Gladys Taber's books but plan to explore that more next. Thank you for this post!

  19. I have my Nana's Taber books! How wonderful is that :)
    I am off to check out your other links~What a great post, Sandra!
    I hope you and Dave have a wonderful, in-the-moment day :)
    xo, misha

  20. OHOHOH!!! Gladys Tabor! I've been reading her books since I was 7 because my mother was a fan. I own almost every book she wrote and I am so excited to find someone who even knows who she is besides Susan Branch! I am just carried back to a simpler place and time whenever I pick up one of her books. I live in CT and even worked 2 towns over but never made the trip to see Stillmeadow. I think it's time...thanks for the time travel post...

  21. I've enjoyed Gladys Taber for over thirty years. Both her fiction and non-fiction are wonderful.

  22. I have no idea who Gladys Taber is - am I out of the loop? I will be checking her books out! That coconut cake looks fabulous - not on my diet - but if you gave me a piece right now I would eat it for sure! Beautiful!!


  23. Anonymous3:04 PM EDT

    Stillmeadow is still there in Southbury, Ct; my husband and I just "visited" there 2 weeks ago (September 2011). Actually we just saw the house and grounds from the outside, but it appeared as if someone lives there, at least sometimes. And yes, the Phillips Farm was saved. In fact we saw a sign that designated it as the "Historic Phillips Farm."

  24. Hi,
    I too love Gladys and Susan. I have several Taber books, just finished reading "COUNTRY CHRONICLE", for some reason I didn't have that one, I ordered it used on Amazon, really good.
    I also have several Susan books, and I just ordered her 2012 calendar.
    Now the best thing I have is a hand written letter on stillmeadow paper from Gladys to my Aunt Glenda. My Aunt had knit her a pair of slippers and she wrote her back thanking her. This was in 1961
    I was a t the thrift store today, I get the best stuff from there as you can tell if you visit my site. I always hope to find someone that has turned in all their Susun stuff, well no yet.
    Nancy Jo


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