A ‘History Garden’


Hi Friends!

Change can be a good thing, but it’s never easy! As these Autumn days grow shorter, I have been as busy as a bee making some big changes in the garden. During the past two gardening seasons, I have been mindful of the immense time that my large perennial gardens require.

Over the years, I intentionally let my gardens expand, little-by-little. My passion for gardening spoke to my heart ~ “You will need something to keep you busy after you retire. You can spend all day, every day in the garden!”  So, after I retired (I actually use a different “R” word, I call it my “Renaissance.”), I happily spent time gardening early in the morning and all afternoon. Life felt sweet among the flowers and herbs!

A few years into my Renaissance, I began to feel additional passions tugging on my heartstrings ~ cardmaking, playing with watercolors, scrapbooking, blogging, volunteering, more travel, taking fun classes, and having weekends free to explore.  Gardening will always, always be my favorite pastime, for time in the garden fills my heart and soul with such joy! Throughout this year I have been gardening with intention, always soul-searching for ways to make a few changes. It’s time to begin making a ‘right size’ garden for my Renaissance!

My ‘History Garden’

After weeks and weeks of digging, today I celebrated the completion of my new ‘History Garden.’  This garden bed holds a bit of the history of our home, treasured memories of my first garden, and special family memories, too. It is located along the side of our garage, since that’s where the story begins…


Our little garage, was built in the early 1920’s on former farmland. The original owners built the garage, insulated the walls inside with wood from boxcars, added a potbelly stove for warmth, and lived in the garage for a whole year, while they worked to build the house. It’s a tall, but narrow garage, just right for a Model T Ford! The original doors were carriage-style and would swing out. After building the garage, they built a stone fireplace in the garden for cooking. I just love this little garage and the history that it holds. I knew that I wanted to preserve this little piece of history, so early on I had the garage jacked up and a strong foundation poured under the walls. It’s just right for my little car and a large potting bench!


Almost 30 years ago, when I became the owner of our little home, the area alongside the garage was filled with scraggly trees. So, my dad helped me clear the land to make a garden bed there. Over time, the garden bed changed from all annuals, to a small Butterfly Garden, and then grew lush with perennials.


In September, it dawned on me that I really didn’t need a ‘wild’ Butterfly Garden bed any longer. My entire garden, planted with large swatches of plants to attract pollinators, has become a colorful butterfly garden!


At the same time, I realized that I no longer need a Cutting Garden, filled with old-fashioned perennials, near the deck. Over the years, my entire garden has become a cutting garden. Filling vases with flowers to bring inside is my favorite way to begin the morning! So, I moved a few of these old-fashioned perennials into my white picket fence Herb & Tea Garden. The Cutting Garden bed was still full of beautiful perennials. It was a joy to share many perennials with friends who were making their very first garden. But the bed was still very full. These perennials had a long history. Most of them were already growing here when I moved in!

Aha! It was time to create my own ‘History Garden’ bed. For weeks, I dug and dug the overgrown daylilies alongside the garage. Over the years, they had been multiplying by leaps and bounds! After digging down one foot deep, to remove the roots and all of the daylily tubers, I had to slowly sift through the soil with my fingers, searching out all of the tiny tubers. It became a special kind of garden meditation, like searching for needles in a haystack. A half day’s work would only clear a small patch, before my back and knees forced me to hobble inside to rest. Many rainy days made for a very muddy mess. So, I was overjoyed to complete the digging earlier this week!

It was finally time to begin transplanting into my ‘History Garden’ alongside the garage! I transplanted peony bushes and phlox that have been growing in my garden for over 30 years. Next I moved some Astilbe plants, some of my very first perennials. I divided the tall, yellow Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ that has been growing near the garage for several years. The centerpiece of the ‘History Garden’ is the Yucca plant that once grew in my mom’s garden long ago. It grew here for many years without flowering. Now the Yucca sends up a tall stalk filled with creamy, white flowers every summer. The mother Yucca plant has produced three pups in my garden~ a lovely reminder of my mom and her three grown children.♥ Today my mom continues to grow Yucca in her Arizona garden. Thinking of our Yucca plants keeps us close, in spite of the miles between our beloved gardens! Just today I added the mulch and drew a map of the new garden bed. (I will be able to identify the remaining flower colors when they bloom in the Springtime.)


I can’t wait until next Spring to watch my ‘History Garden’ grow! It should be filled with color from early Spring through late Fall. I even left a space to add a new perennial, from my long ‘wish list.’ I have a feeling it will be pink Japanese Windflowers! I first noticed them blooming in a beautiful garden in the Black Forest, in Germany. Their gorgeous Autumn blooms hold such a special place in my heart!

Colorful Maple leaves grace the birdbath on a sunny Autumn day.

I will still be as busy as a bee in the garden a bit longer. It’s time to clear the remaining plants from the old Cutting Garden and plant grass in that area. Next year, there will be a little more to mow, but much less to weed! I’m already planning more changes in the garden next year. Gardening with intention will keep my passion for gardening (along with all of the other pastimes in my Renaissance) growing for years to come!


Can’t wait to share a wonderful gardening book with you next time!

It has inspired these changes… with more to come!

Are you planning any big changes in your garden?

Happy Autumn days!

♡ Dawn








Touched by Magic!


Hi Friends!

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels – that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one. The often surprising results of that hunt – that’s what I call Big Magic.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

A true ‘jewel’ of a book has touched my heart and soul. It’s the kind of book that had me in tears  as I read, for it spoke so much about the creative path that I am following during this exciting chapter of life! Perhaps this wonderful book is also on your stack of books to read…


After a very long waiting list at the library, my turn to explore the magic of creativity finally arrived. It was a double-blessing to check out both the book and the audio book of Big Magic at the same time. What a joy to hear Elizabeth Gilbert’s passion as she read to me, while I followed along, adding sticky notes to the passages that inspired my creative heart.

Liz Gilbert shared the reasons why it can feel so scary to take risks as we create. Whether you are a papercrafter,  a watercolorist, a quilter, a glass-blower, a writer, a composer, a poet,… any kind of artist at all,  Liz helps us understand how “Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity.” As I read, I filled a journal with quotes and connections to her powerful inspiration.


Now I truly understand why it can be so hard to go downstairs to my ‘Paper Garden’ studio to begin a new project. Liz encourages us…

“Work with all your heart, because – I promise – if you show up for your work day after day after day after day, you just might get lucky enough some random morning to burst right into bloom.”   

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic



Now I can understand why, on some days, all creatives feel like we have lost our mojo. We have the time to create, a dedicated space to be messy, and wonderful supplies at hand. In spite of these many blessings, we just don’t feel creative. On those days, I can only look through my paper, paints, ink, and stamps as I wait for my inspiration to return.

Liz reminds us…

“The most important thing to understand about eudaimonia, though – about that exhilarating encounter between a human being and divine creative inspiration – is that you cannot expect it to be there for you all the time. It will come and go, and you must let it come and go.” 

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic


Liz encourages us all to look back through our family history to find the makers that we come from. So true! I come from a long line of makers. As I grew up, I watched the joy and hard work of my parents as they worked with with their hands and hearts. My mom made a beautiful quilt, colorful stained glass pieces, handmade pottery, sewed our clothes, baked the most wonderful cookies and cakes, and tended her lovely rose gardens. My dad built our bedrooms upstairs and our family room downstairs, restored several antique cars, and designed Lionel train layouts. Even today, their creative passions add joy to their days. My Aunt Gilda, with an advanced degree from The Art Institute of Chicago, found joy as she worked with pen and ink, as a sculptor, painter, quilter, and calligrapher. (One day, I promise to share more about these amazing, creative makers who have been a source of lifelong inspiration to me! ♥) From time to time, I’m sure they all felt the same creative fears that I feel. It’s all a part of the magic!


Especially this year, as I strive to ‘blossom’ (my ‘One Little Word’ 2016) by bravely sharing my artwork and taking part in creative Challenges that stretch my skills,…  I can feel the magic happening! It gives me the courage to keep sharing. I feel so blessed to gather with other makers at our monthly papercrafting Crop Days. It feels so inspiring to spend time with my creative ‘tribe.’


Liz celebrates makers of all ages…

“If you are older, trust that the world has been educating you all along. You already know so much more than you think you know. You are not finished; you are merely ready.” 

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

Even though it’s hard work and can feel scary at times, I feel so ready ~ ready to learn, ready to grow, ready to blossom! I am so grateful to all of the creatives online who teach and inspire me each day. (You might like to check out my Inspiration links in the blog header.)  They shared Big Magic with me… and I couldn’t wait to share Big Magic with you!

♥  Beginning this week, Big Magic is available in paperback, too.

♥  I absolutely loved the audio book of Big Magic! There is nothing like hearing the passion in an author’s voice as she reads her inspiring words aloud to you!

♥  After publishing Big Magic, Liz wanted to continue the conversation about creativity. Her delightful podcasts, ‘Magic Lessons,’ are “roadmaps to creativity and the little nudge we all need when we feel stuck creatively.”  I enjoyed all 12 wonderful episodes from Season 1. Now Season 2 of ‘Magic Lessons’ is already underway.  Check out the ‘Magic Lessons’ podcasts!


Yes, I have truly been touched by magic…

and I look forward to sharing more connections to the inspiration and lessons

I’ve learned from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic

 I’ve only just begun to blossom! ♥

“All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life – collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand. It’s a strange line of work, admittedly. I cannot think of a better way to spend my days.”      

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic


Hope you will join in the conversation here!

Have you read Big Magic?

Do any of these quotes from the book touch your creative heart?


Be awesome today!

♡ Dawn









In Remembrance…


Hi Friends,

The sun shone brightly on this September 11th morning. As I walked along the prairie, admiring the goldenrod, purple thistle, and bright yellow blossoms, it wasn’t the birdsong or the chirping crickets that interrupted my thoughts. It was the sound of airplanes flying overhead. It’s a very common part of the soundtrack of our lives here since we live near a major, international airport. It triggered an eerie memory, though, on this National Day of Remembrance, of a time when our skies overhead were silent for many days.


As I neared the park the somber strains of the bagpipe drifted through the air over the crowd of neighbors gathered on this early Sunday morning. We were there to remember and honor the victims and their families of that terrible, terrible day fifteen years ago.  Patriot Day is now a very special time of remembrance every year on September 11th.


We gathered this morning to commemorate all of the brave first responders who sacrificed their lives in service to others. A local firefighter remembered how a small group of firefighters from our town immediately left for New York. They made the journey specifically to attend the funerals of the New York and Port Authority fire fighters who lost their lives on 9-11. Since the New York area firefighters were in the midst of search and rescue, firefighters from across our nation arrived to support the families and to be there for the funerals.


A local police officer shared his remembrance of that day right here in our town, over 800 miles from New York City. People were afraid, and the job of our police officers that day and long afterward was to reassure citizens that we were safe. Seeing an extra police presence on the local streets brought a sense of comfort in the weeks following 9-11.


The names of those brave 343 firefighters and 71 police officers who instantly lost their lives while trying to save others were read aloud. There was a pause at 8:46 and 9:02 a.m. for a moment of silent reflection at the exact times that the planes hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. A local honor guard marked the sacrifice made by police officers with a three-shot salute and a local firefighter honored the fallen firefighters by ringing a fire bell, a longstanding tradition of firefighters.


A veteran shared his memories of being called back to active duty and all of the young men and women who wanted to serve our country following the attacks. A young woman vividly and bravely shared her memories of that day and the impact it made on her life, inspiring her to become a high school counselor. We honored the memories of all those passengers on Flight 93.


This morning’s ceremony ended with the display of an artifact from the World Trade Center, recently given to our local fire department by the New York and New Jersey Port Authority. This piece of steel is a rail from the subway tracks that ran underground at the World Trade Center. On 9-11, these tracks carried survivors out to safety. Soon this special remembrance will have a permanent place of honor at one of our fire stations.


As we listened during the 90-minute ceremony, everyone’s thoughts turned to that day, fifteen years ago…

I can remember that sunny Tuesday morning, as if it were yesterday. As I drove into the school parking lot, a news report interrupted the music on the radio at 7:46 Central Time. The news of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center was an unbelievable shock. In that moment, we didn’t yet understand what was happening.  I paused to breathe. Just as every morning, I quietly spoke my intention, “Thank you for bringing me here” for the new school day. It was time to rush inside for a before-school meeting. During our meeting, news reached us that a second plane hit the Twin Towers.

The school bell rang and my second grade students arrived filled with concern and questions… so many questions. For they had all seen the news reports on TV before school. They were frightened and wanted to know if they and their families were safe. Even now, just thinking about that day brings tears to my eyes. Fortunately, our class was like a family, having ‘looped’ together from first grade into second grade. We felt the bonds of trust and closeness that were so important at a time like this. I remember spending a great deal of time talking about heroes. We talked a lot about the helpers, the firefighters, policemen and women, paramedics, doctors and nurses,… all of the people who help us.  I listened…and listened… and shared a few facts in age-appropriate ways. These curious, engaged children looked to me for answers every day, but sometimes there are no answers…

Mind you, I still had not seen any news reports or the horrific images that my seven-year-olds had seen. At lunchtime, I watched the news footage of the terrorist attacks for the first time. The new reality, that terrorist attacks had now reached our homeland, cut into my heart. As a traveler, I had been very aware of the attacks that had been happening in Europe over the years. Memories of arriving at the Frankfurt airport just days after an attack, seeing military with weapons on patrol, being careful not to look ‘American’ while traveling, and discovering that there were places I couldn’t go were etched in my heart. I was a frequent traveler who always dreamed of my next European adventure with dear friends. That feeling of being ‘Home Safe Home’ each time my plane landed here was gone in an instant! Everything had suddenly changed.

In the weeks and months following the attacks, we often talked about ways that we could help one another in second grade. “There are no hands too small to help the world” was a phrase we often said in our classroom. We would look at our own hands, then pick up our pencils and crayons to write ‘thank you ‘ letters to our firefighters. Our little hands stayed very busy! We wrote class letters to a deployed Army soldier (and he wrote back). We honored the veterans in our own families, and we raised money to help others. We loved to share ideas about all of the ways that we could help in our families and communities. Celebrating the helpers and being the helpers made us all feel better!


That is the part of ‘Remembrance’ that I hold dear.  After the unthinkable had happened, Americans everywhere were so kind and supportive to one another. We truly showed that we cared about one another’s feelings and needs. We pulled together to help and make a difference. (Do you remember filling the firefighters’ boots with donations for the families of the NYC firefighters?) We talked together… and we listened to one another.  We were one… we were Americans, at our best!

On this Day of Remembrance, if only we could remember those same feelings of kindness and caring and helping one another. Instead of the constant political squabbles over the upcoming Presidential elections, maybe we could work together, have meaningful conversations, listen to one another, and try to solve the problems that face us all. We can be our best… I know we can.  

In remembrance,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  If you would like to share a memory, we would love to hear from you!





Garden Inspiration…



Hi Friends!

One thing leads to another!
Has this ever happened to you?

Over the past few weeks,

I’ve often thought of the charming, children’s book,

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. (Take a moment to enjoy the read-aloud here!)

Today’s post, inspired by Laura Numeroff’s sweet, children’s book,

offers a peek into the unexpected activity in my garden over the past few weeks…


If you give a gardener…

a wonderfully written and illustrated book,

Homegrown Tea ~ An Illustrated Guide to Planting, Harvesting, and Blending Teas and Tisanes

by Cassie Liversidge,

it will quickly become one of her very favorite books about growing herbs and teas.

As she reads, she will decide…

to move the Monarda (also called Bergamot or Bee Balm) from her Butterfly Garden

back to her Herb & Tea Garden, where it grew many years earlier.

She will realize that she doesn’t really need a small Butterfly Garden bed,

when her entire yard is a butterfly garden!


After she transplants the Monarda to the ‘heart of her garden,’

she will decide…

to move her favorite, old-fashioned flowers from her Cutting Garden,

to the inside of her Herb & Tea Garden,

along the white picket fence

(built with love).


How sweet it will be to tend the fragrant herbs,

surrounded by Bleeding Hearts, Hydrangea, Coreopsis, Black-eyed Susans, Coral Bells,

Speedwell, Obedient Plant, and Phlox!


As she moves these perennials,

she will realize…

 that she really doesn’t need a Cutting Garden bed,

next to the deck, near the towering pine trees,

because over the years

her entire garden has grown into a cutting garden!

Each morning, she happily fills vases of flowers to bring the beauty of the garden inside.


On those hot, humid days that aren’t suitable for digging in the garden,

she will dream her garden dreams…

with paper, ink, stamps, and watercolors

in her little Paper Garden studio.


What fun to design tiny gardens, using Art Impressions Watercolor stamps! (Bee skep is from a vintage Stampin’ Up set.)

While she creates little gardens on paper,

she will decide…

that it would be fun to grow tall, colorful blossoms

along both sides of her white, garden arbor,

where the pink and purple Clematis bloom.


when the days are a bit more comfortable,

she will spend hours and hours…

digging out patches of Daylilies,

day after day,

to make her garden dreams come true.

She will move beautiful Phlox that were already growing in the yard

when she bought her little bungalow 29 years ago.

They were such a lovely gift

left by those who gardened here

long before her

and are a very special part of the history of

her beloved, 94-year-old cottage garden.


Patches of pink, white, and purple Phlox,

spiky purple Obedient Plant,

and delicate, pink Coral Bells

will welcome visitors who step through the arbor,

and follow the flagstone path to the Herb & Tea Garden.


So, the happy gardener will…

stay busy as a bee

in her cottage garden

digging, transplanting, mulching,


‘watercoloring’ with perennials

as the late Summer days

turn to early Autumn.

What a joy it will be to watch her ‘new’ old-fashioned garden emerge in the Springtime!


If you give a gardener…

a wonderful book to read,

the seeds of inspiration will grow!


It has been a true joy to find so much inspiration

in my summer reading…


and I have lots more to share!


I’m so happy that you stopped to visit today!

What books have inspired you most this summer?

Hope you will leave a comment to share with us…

Wishing you lots of happy!

♡ Dawn













A Fascinating Walk!


Hi Friends!

It’s a wonderful tradition that began early on, when my husband and I were just getting to know one another! Very often, we found ourselves walking near water, with moments of peaceful silence and interesting conversations about anything and everything. Oh the beautiful places we have walked together! Not the types to sit on a beach, we have strolled along Lake Michigan beaches, the beaches of Waikiki, and along the North Shore of Kauai. Walks along the River Seine, the River Rhein, the Lower Salt River in the Sonoran desert, and the Illinois River hold so many dear memories. Over the years, we have enjoyed walking along rushing waterfalls, meandering creeks, and a quiet marsh. Yet, there has always been another watery destination on our long list of places to walk ~  a bog!

So, Sunday morning, we packed a picnic lunch and drove north quite a distance to the Volo Bog State Natural Area. Our walk was filled with unexpected surprises, lovely views, and new learning. We both agreed that it was one of our more fascinating walks… and I couldn’t wait to share our walk with you!


With our first glimpse of the Volo Bog, we were very curious about the large patches of pink in the distance. It was time to explore!

This bog originated about 12,000 years ago as the Wisconsin glacier crept into northeastern Illinois. As the climate warmed, the ice melted and glacial lakes formed. The trees (in the photo above) mark the edges of the old glacial lake. 


Volo Bog has a floating boardwalk, allowing visitors to view various parts of the bog while walking just above the bog’s surface.

This was our chance to walk just inches above the surface of a bog! We could feel the floating walkway moving gently underfoot with each step. We walked very slowly, as dragonflies and butterflies floated overhead and a chorus of nearby crickets and frogs sang for us. Below the boardwalk, the 50-foot deep bog was filled with plants growing in this unique wetland.


From time to time as we walked, there were views of peaceful, open water, surrounded by cattails and sedges. However, most of the bog is now lush with plant growth.

A bog is a very unique type of wetland. It forms in a glacial lake that has very poor drainage and no inflow of water from streams. Rain water and melting snow fill the bog. A floating mat of peat, which is partially decayed plant matter, began to form long ago at the Volo Bog.  The roots of living plants support this thickening peat layer.


Volo Bog is the only ‘Quaking Bog’ with an open water center in Illinois. Its floating mat of sphagnum moss and other plants is so thick in some places that a person could actually stand on it. However, this would not only damage the bog, but would be incredibly dangerous. The floating boardwalk allows visitors to safely explore the bog.


Cattails turn to seed in mid-August at Volo Bog.

As early as 10,000 years ago, the Native Americans settled in northeastern Illinois. The Volo Bog, a distance from large waterways, would have provided good hunting grounds and places to gather arrowhead roots, cattails, blueberries, and other edible plants.

BogFloraColorful wildflowers were in full bloom throughout the bog and the pollinators were very active on this mid-August day.


The wooden boardwalk leads visitors through four different plant communities at Volo Bog. As we made our way, the changing plant species seemed to take us back through time. Winterberry Holly, Dogwood, and Poison Sumac were among the tall shrubs in this part of the bog. During times of high water from rain and melting snow, some of the Tamarack trees in this area drowned. Ancient ferns also grow in this shady area of the bog.


This diagram shows the different plant zones we observed as we followed the boardwalk (yellow dotted trail) to the ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog.


The ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog is not an ordinary pond. It is 50 feet deep and everything you see is floating… even the Tamarack pine trees in the distance! As the plant layers in the bog continue to grow and decay, scientists predict the open water at the ‘eye’ will be overgrown with vegetation in the next 100-150 years.


Tamarack pine trees grow in this part of the plant community. These unusual pines are deciduous! In Autumn, their needles turn golden yellow and fall onto the peat soil below. The Tamarack trees, with their shallow, spreading roots, float up and down as the water levels change in the bog.

Sphagnum moss carpets the ground in this area of the bog. Native American mothers gathered and dried this moss to line their cradle boards, as a sort of diaper. Early soldiers used dried sphagnum to cover their wounds in the battlefields, since this moss produces acids with antibacterial properties.

BogFaunaThe bog is a wetland habitat for so many animal species.


This circa 1900 dairy barn was renovated to create a wonderful, educational Visitor Center at the Volo Bog.


As a result of our rainy summer, water levels seemed high in this open water area of the bog.


Waterbirds searched for food in the moss-covered water, while a family of turtles took turns sunning on a floating log.


The bog is a beautiful, fragile ecosystem that we must carefully preserve.

As we walked along the boardwalk, observing the variety of plants and animals that make their homes in this habitat, my thoughts turned to my own garden. Years ago, as I added new flower beds, I would occasionally buy a large bag of peat moss to mix into the soil. Never again!!

Most of our commercially harvested (actually, it is ‘mined’) peat in North America comes from Canadian sphagnum moss. Our walk reminded me once again that bogs are fragile wetlands that must be preserved! There are much better (and cheaper) alternatives to amend the soil in our gardens ~ local leaf mold compost, wood chips, composted garden waste, and green kitchen compost. Continued use of these plant materials will keep my garden a healthier, more responsible little patch of nature for years to come!

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

This is my 100th post at Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes… 

and your visits and thoughtful comments are always such a treat for me!


Enjoy your week!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Do you enjoy walking near water, too?  Please tell us about your favorite places to walk…




Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie


Hi Friends!

Native plants are in full bloom here in Illinois, the ‘Prairie State.’ So, early Saturday morning, we decided to explore a very special prairie. It was a rare, cool, end-of-July day, with skies threatening rain one moment and offering bright sunshine the next. My husband dreamed of walking through the prairie in the rain observing the insects, while I wished for blue skies, just right for taking flower photos. Off we went… both of us watching the skies!

The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is the first national tallgrass prairie in our country. Once native prairie, this area then developed into a community filled with homes. Years later, the land became the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant producing ammunition used in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the first Gulf War. In 1996, the Department of Defense transferred ownership of the 19,000 acres to the U.S. Forest Service to create Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. With the help of  local conservation groups and countless volunteers, the USDA Forest Service has been working to restore this land to native tallgrass prairie. Today more than 13,300 acres are open to the public.


We stopped in the Welcome Center first to pick up trail maps and learn about the prairie restoration in progress. Restoring a prairie of this size will take decades. Much of what happens at Midewin is an ongoing experiment of trial and error as USDA staff study the small patches of native prairie that remain. Vast amounts of native plant seeds are being collected and spread each year by the dedicated volunteer workforce. Over time, Midewin staff continue to learn how the different parts of a prairie ecosystem work together.

Midewin, in the language of the Potawatomi People means 'healing.'

Midewin (pronounced ‘mih-DAY-win’) has made amazing progress toward its goal already. Friendly volunteer Rangers were eager to share the history and progress of Midewin with us.

We began our prairie hike at the Iron Bridge Trailhead. As we hiked along the winding trail, it was exciting to see the progress of  the largest prairie restoration underway in the United States.


Queen Anne’s Lace

Our hot, rainy weather during July has helped the native plants put on a spectacular show of colors.


Late July at the tallgrass prairie

Walking through the tallgrass prairie helps us to imagine the time when 60% of the landscape of Illinois was covered in prairies.  The grasses and native flowers often grew as tall as a horse and its rider. As covered wagons made their way through the prairies in the early days, only the tops of their canvas-covered wagons could be seen above the tallgrass prairie. They truly looked like ‘prairie schooners’ bobbing slowly through the waves of the tall prairie grasses.


Left:  Prairie Sunflower; Right: Purple Coneflower, Blue Aster. Red Clover

While the prairie wildflowers and grasses grow to impressive heights, most of the plant is below the soil with its extremely long root system. In addition to the roots, microbes, insects, and burrowing animals also play a critical role in the underground ecosystem of the prairie. Over time, the tallgrass prairies created the deep, rich topsoil of the Midwest. Once the valuable soil beneath our prairies was discovered, the tallgrass prairies disappeared quickly. In just 50 years, the prairies were replaced by farm crops and pastures for livestock.


Queen Anne’s Lace

Today, there are less than one hundredth of one percent of the tallgrass prairies remaining in Illinois.


Yellow Coneflower

We are so fortunate that volunteers are working to restore Midewin. They carefully harvest the seeds of wildflowers and grasses, spread the seeds, remove invasive plants, maintain the trails, and teach visitors about this valuable prairie.


Top: Red Spotted Purple butterfly, Black Swallowtail butterfly  Bottom: dragonflies on native grasses

The prairie wildflowers and grasses attract many pollinators vital to the restoration process. As we hiked, we were entertained by the birds, bees, butterflies, and dragonflies. Cicadas were singing loudly in the afternoon sun.


We hiked along the Iron Bridge trail in search of  bison grazing on the prairie. Chatting with other hikers, we learned that none of them had seen any bison and were returning to the trailhead. So, we decided to turn off on another trail. I stopped to admire the Queen Anne’s Lace blooming profusely, and something moving near the horizon caught my eye. Could it be?

 As we watched, we could just barely see a line of bison moving through the tallgrass and native flowers. We decided to quickly hike up to a higher place on the trail and stopped to watch the herd of bison moving. It was truly an unforgettable moment to see these huge, iconic creatures moving across the prairie!

Bison played a very important role in our history, as the Native American hunters followed them across the plains. Bison provided food, clothing, and shelter to the Native Americans.


In the Fall of 2015, Midewin introduced bison to the prairie, in an experiment planned to last 20 years. Midewin prairie ecologists are studying the bison to see if their grazing patterns will benefit the ecosystem of the tallgrass prairie. Bison feed only on grasses, opening the prairie to more flowers and other plants. This attracts a variety of birds, insects, and other animals, increasing the biodiversity of the tallgrass prairie.


The bison herd at Midewin, relocated from Colorado and South Dakota, includes 24 adults and 12 young bison. Just this week, two bison calves were born. As we watched them walking in a straight line, tails swishing, I was able to count 18 bison in this herd. Next time, we will bring binoculars!


Hedge apples (Maclura pomifera), also known as Osage oranges and Bois d’arc

Turning off onto the Hedge Apple Trail, we passed a tree laden with this bumpy fruit. The Osage People used the strong, flexible wood from these trees to make their bows. These trees were often planted as wind breaks to prevent soil erosion. Their sharp thorns turned rows of Hedge Apple trees into cattle-deterring hedges, before the invention of barbed wire for fences.

As we walked along the trail, we were greeted by vast areas filled with Queen Anne’s Lace in bloom. We followed a smaller trail deeper into the prairie. I stopped and spun around very s-l-o-w-l-y taking in all of this natural beauty. It felt just like I was standing in the middle of a beautiful, watercolor painting!


As we hiked, these Yellow Coneflowers, with their drooping yellow petals were among my very favorite prairie plants. It was fascinating to discover that so many plants from my cottage gardens at home are native wildflowers. Aster, Spiderwort, Beebalm, Purple Coneflower, ‘Blazing Star’ Liatris, Marsh Phlox, Obedient Plant, Allium, Black-Eyed Susan, and Anemones grow in the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and in the garden at our ‘Little House Near the Prairie.’ 🙂

If you ever have the chance to walk through a tallgrass prairie, it is an experience that you will always remember! Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is a treasure… and one that will continue to teach us to care for the land in so many important ways!


Thanks so much for walking through the tallgrass prairie with us today!

Have you ever visited a prairie?

Do you grow any native prairie plants in your garden?

Happy August days!









Inky Fingers, Happy Hearts

Hi Friends!

Oh, what a weekend! It wasn’t the oppressive heatwave or the thunderstorms rumbling through the Midwest that I will remember most though. For I was cool and happy, downstairs in my ‘Paper Garden’ studio all weekend, in the company of papercrafters from across the globe. We were participating in the 5th annual Papertrey Ink Stamp-a-Faire, created by the  talented PTI design team. It felt truly exhilarating to share creative time with so many amazing papercrafters!


On Friday night, I gathered some favorite Papertrey Ink stamps and dies so I would be ready to create very early on Saturday morning. Inspiration for this event came from a wide variety of Master artists. Every two hours throughout the day, a PTI design team member would share a bit of art history and a card making project based on the work of a Master. It was sure to be a day of learning and growing… and creating way beyond my comfort zone!

“Why not go out on a limb?  That’s where the fruit is.”   ~ Mark Twain

Let’s go downstairs to the ‘Paper Garden’… to see what blossomed on my craft table and in my heart over the weekend!

(Be sure to click on the links for wonderful videos about each Master artist and the great techniques they inspired.)

Starry Night

Inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s beautiful paintings of the night sky, Amy Sheffer led us through an amazing process with paper and ink.  I used seven different ink colors to create my nighttime sky. I was fascinated as I watched my inks blend! I gained new insights as I blended dye and distress inks on the same background. Spritzing the background with water created subtle, distant stars and flicking white, acrylic paint added some brighter stars.

Starry Night collage

Next I painted a tree-lined horizon with black ink and added a sentiment over a loose nest of white thread. In a bit of pure magic, the song ‘Vincent’ (by Don McClean) began playing on the radio, while I worked! ♫ Starry, starry night… ♬ How did that happen? Serendipity, for sure! Working on the starry, night sky also brought back such wonderful memories of visiting the Van Gogh Museum, in Amsterdam.


Supplies I used:

Ink: SU Night of Navy; Ranger Distress: Evergreen Bough, Salty Ocean, Spun Sugar, Victorian Velvet, Shaded Lilac, Seedless Preserves; Versa Mark, and black re-inker

Paper:  Canson Watercolor, cold press, 110 lb

Dies & Stamps: PTI ‘Counting My Blessings’ die;  Sentiment stamp: PTI ‘Counting My Blessings’

Also: Neat & Tangled sequins, SU Smoky Slate embossing powder,  heat tool, SU Mini Mister, white acrylic paint, white thread,  Tombow Mono Multi, ink blending tools, paintbrush

Feeling:  Magical! I will never look at a night sky in quite the same way again!


Gilded in Gold

Inspired by trendy, gold embossed stationery and monograms, Danielle Flanders shared her faux gold gilding technique. It was the perfect way to add a bit of sparkle to the morning! I used metallic, gold acrylic paint to add a bit of shine to several bookmarks, hoping that family and friends will feel the a bit of sparkle when they open their mail! The gold paint dried very quickly, didn’t warp the paper, and is really shiny.


Next I created a monogrammed tag. It was fun to combine the simple look of  kraft cardstock with a gilded, scalloped tag shape! I’ve never used acrylic paint on my cards before (even though bottles of acrylic paint sit on a shelf in the ‘Paper Garden’). So, this simple project opened a whole new world of possibilities for me!


Supplies I used:

Paper: Strathmore Bristol Smooth, SU Crumb Cake cardstock, SU Vellum cardstock

Dies & Stamps:  PTI  ‘Tag Sale: Quilted’ die; Spellbinders Nestabilities Scalloped Circle; Monogram: PTI ‘Wet Paint Alphabet Stamps’

Faux Gold Gilding: Plaid ‘Folk Art’ Metallic (Pure Gold) applied with a foam brush

Also: Pop Dots, Tombow Mono Multi, twine, Recollections blue tags

Feeling: Sparkly! Now I’m hooked on adding gilded gold touches!


Floral Impressionism

Inspired by Monet’s beautiful florals, Melissa Phillips shared her white embossing powder technique to achieve a soft, romantic look. Dreamy thoughts of Monet’s garden made me smile. It was fun to watercolor with layers of dye ink over a heat embossed image.


Supplies I used:

Paper: Canson Watercolor, cold press, 110 lb

Ink: SU Pool Party, Daffodil Delight, Wild Wasabi, Blushing Bride, Primrose Petals

Stamps: Wplus9 ‘Spring Blossoms;’ a vintage French script background stamp, Mason Jar (resized)

Dies: PTI ‘Tiny Tags,’ ‘Embroidered Frames: Dots’ die (cut in half)

Also: Ranger ‘Seafoam White’ embossing powder, heat tool, paintbrush, Stamp-a-ma-Jig

Feeling: Joie de vivre! France is always close to my heart! I dream of visiting Monet’s gardens one day!


Pointillism Play

Inspired by the Pointillism technique of painting by applying tiny, individual dots of color, Heather Nichols shared ways of adding dots of color to stamped images.  I heat embossed my floral image to help me stay within the lines. This was a very relaxing way of stamping that gave the stamped image a whole, new look!


Supplies I used:

Paper: Strathmore Bristol Smooth, SU Crumb Cake cardstock, Teresa Collins ‘Fabrications – Canvas’ patterned paper

Ink:  SU Primrose Petals, Daffodil Delight

Dies: PTI ‘Embroidered Frames: Dots’ die

Stamps: Hero Arts flower, PTI sentiment ‘Choose Joy,’ PTI tiny dots ‘Petite Places: A Walk in the Park’

Also: Ranger ‘Seafoam White’ embossing powder, heat tool

Feeling: So relaxed! Stamping tiny dots in the Pointillism style felt like a meditation!

Watercolor Like a Master

Inspired by the watercolor Masters, Kay Miller shared her lovely, watercolor techniques. She is a natural and helped me discover exciting ways to use older stamps in fresh, new ways. Such wonderful inspiration for me!! I will be using Kay’s techniques from now on! I created two cards, using different color palettes.



Supplies I used:

Paper: Canson Watercolor, cold press, 110 lb,  Recollections heavyweight cardstock

Ink:  SU Primrose Petals, Daffodil Delight, Wild Wasabi, Pear Pizzazz, Blushing Bride, VersaFine Onyx Black

Stamps: SU ‘Too Kind’ (flower petals), Wplus9 ‘Spring Blooms’ (foliage). PTI ‘Sentiment Splits’

Dies: PTI ‘Sentiment Splits: Curved’

Also: Scotch Foam Mounting Tape, MISTI, paintbrush

Feeling: Thrilled! I just love discovering a new way to use an old, favorite stamp set!

Color Blocking

Inspired by the graphic designs of Andy Warhol, Lexi Daly shared her technique for using bold, repetitive images to create a graphic design. Since it was well-past midnight, I decided to try this challenge on Sunday afternoon. It was so hard to choose an image. Suddenly, it dawned on me that Color Blocking reminds me of a quilt! Right away, I found the perfect little image to stamp. I chose my deep, rich colors from our Amish quilt hanging upstairs. (Now I know that our Amish quilt is pieced with Not Quite Navy, Raspberry Ripple, Always Artichoke, and Elegant Eggplant!)🙂

This was my most difficult challenge of all! In fact, it felt like a Math test, as I measured, masked, and mumbled to myself for several hours.


 A simple, color-blocked card with a whole lot of heart…

and the perfect sentiment!

IMG_0949 copy

Supplies I used:

Paper: SU Whisper White cardstock, Crumb Cake cardstock

Ink: Versa Mark, SU Not Quite Navy, Raspberry Ripple, Always Artichoke, Elegant Eggplant, Crumb Cake, VersaFine Onyx Black

Stamps: PTI ‘Quilted Sampler Additions,’  Sentiment: PTI ‘Quilted Summer’

Dies: MFT ‘Wonky Stitch Square STAX Die-namics’

Also: ZING! Clear embossing powder, Tombow Mono Multi, MISTI, Dove Blender Pen, T-ruler, Post-its (and lots of patience!)

Feeling: Relieved! Simple designs can often take the most time!

I still have one more Challenge, inspired by Jackson Pollock‘s drips and splatters of paint, to complete. Lizzie Jones shared great techniques for creating different kinds of spatters and drips. I can’t wait to try this messy technique outside in the garden, on a sunny day. It’s sure to be a fun one!

What an incredible weekend of learning and growing! I’m so grateful for the talents of the entire Papertrey Ink design team.  It was so exciting to blossom using their wonderful seeds of inspiration during Stamp-a-Faire 2016… and I’m already looking forward to next year’s event!

Inky fingers can make hearts feel happy ~

the hearts of both the cardmakers and those who receive our handmade kindness!


“It is good to love many things,

for therein lies the true strength,

and whosoever loves much performs much,

and can accomplish much,

and what is done in love,

is done well.”

~ Vincent van Gogh


Paper hugs,


P.S.  Thanks so much for stopping to visit today! What creative things have you been working lately?

Added later… 

P.P.S.   Welcome Papertrey Ink Blog Hoppers!!  I wrote this post to document a wonderful Stamp-a-Faire weekend. After posting, I learned that today was a PTI Blog Hop. More serendipity!!  So happy to meet so many Papertrey Ink friends hopping along… ♡