Inspired by Nature… Created by Hand

Hi Friends!

Happy Autumn! (Happy Spring!) I hope you are feeling well and are safe from all of the wild weather as the seasons change. Our weather suddenly changed from hot and humid to delightfully cool just in time for the equinox!

My Midwest cottage garden is flourishing again after several rainy days. The perennials are showing off their white, yellow, pink, and purple blossoms. The herbs seem to have doubled in size overnight!

For the past week, however, I have only been able to hobble through the garden a few, short times. I fractured a bone in my left foot and will be spending the coming weeks wearing an orthopedic shoe while the broken bone heals. My foot definitely lets me know whenever I have taken a few too many steps! Ouch!😢

Time in the garden has always filled me with creative inspiration while healing my heart and soul. No wonder that the garden is my favorite place to be! Nature’s colors, patterns, and shapes inspire my use of inks, papers, stamps, dies, watercolors, and more…

Bunnies are always welcome to nibble the clover, Creeping Charlie, and wild violets from our ‘meadow’ lawn. Recently, a few bunnies have been visiting my little Paper Garden studio downstairs, too.


Gratitude + Tag dies (Papertrey Ink)
Bunny stamp + die (Colorado Craft Company)
Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ attracts so many pollinators! I refill the nearby bee bath daily to encourage the busy pollinators to linger in the garden.

The pollinators have been so busy in the garden all Summer long. They have been making an appearance on my handmade cards recently, too.

Honey Bees dies + Honeycomb Corners die (The Greetery)
Sentiment stamp (Papertrey Ink)

What could be sweeter than using a dried ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossom, in place of a bow, on a gift for a dear gardening friend?💕

Oh, how the bees love the blossoms of Obedient Plant and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy.’

Our ‘Hidcote’ Lavender in bloom inspired me to add Lavender stems to handmade cards. I even tucked a few paper stems inside each card!

BotanCuts Lavender + Garden Gear: Gloves dies (The Greetery)
Seed Catalog background stamp (The Greetery)

Do you wear garden gloves? I always wear them while I play in the garden and somehow, I still get muddy hands.😉

These lovely Hollyhocks are blooming along my neighbor’s fence. We look forward to sharing our Hollyhock seeds with one another soon!
BotaniCuts Hollyhocks dies (The Greetery)

I’m really looking forward to harvesting herbs in the coming weeks. I’m going to experiment with an easy, very clever way to dry a few of the herbs. (I’ll report back soon.😊) Herbal inspiration is already on its way to my Paper Garden studio!

Just the other day, as I hobbled past our ‘Autumn Blaze’ Red Maple tree, I spotted the first red leaf nestled in the grass. Very soon, there will be watercolored leaves in my sketchbook and miniature twig wreaths created with ink and paper in the studio. I’m also dreaming of tiny, paper, patchwork quilts! So cozy!

Nurturing my ‘inner second grader‘ helps my creative spirit to blossom!🌸

Last week, I began my fourth consecutive Creative Cluster book study for The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. Over the next twelve weeks, our large group of artists from all disciplines will continue to grow as we travel along our creative paths. It feels like such a blessing to nurture our creativity in community with so many talented artists seeking joy!

You might enjoy the Artists for Joy podcast, with Merideth Hite Estevez, our very talented facilitator/coach/musician/writer/friend! (You can find it wherever you listen to podcasts. Always inspiring!)

🌻Thank you so much for visiting today!

What excites you most with the change of season?

🌻Hope you will share with all of us in the Comments!

Perennially yours,

💗 Dawn

Chatting By the Garden Gate ~ August 2022

Hi Friends!

Today seems like the perfect time to slip off our garden gloves and have a nice, relaxing chat over the garden fence. So glad you are here!

Hope you will let us know what garden projects you have been working on, your garden joys, and your garden challenges, too. 🌻

July 2022

This has been a very interesting gardening season for me with a huge, new home under construction right next door. I have learned to ‘go with the flow‘ each day depending on what is happening just beyond the tall, chain link, construction fence.

I’ve been enjoying every busy moment in my garden…

Old-fashioned Phlox, a bee bath, and an empty birdhouse

My new Sunshine perennial bed is now growing where our woodland Shade garden grew, beneath our towering Pine trees, for nearly a century. (Read that amazing story here!)

After weeks of digging and chopping long Pine roots, it was such fun to transplant colorful perennials to create this new border bed. I have been moving tall plants, like Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ to attract pollinators.

Bees on Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ (Autumn Sun)
Ailanthus Webworm Moth, with tightly closed wings,
on Rudbeckia seed head

This year, all of our birdhouses have remained empty. I’m convinced that all of our feathered friends have chosen to live in the new 4 bedroom, 4.5 bathroom ‘nest’ nearby! As I worked, cardinals, wrens, robins, and swallows would line up on top of the tall fence and fly in and out of the open windows. (They have very expensive taste!😉)

This old-fashioned Phlox is one of my favorites. It has been growing in my garden for more than thirty-five years! I deadhead the spent blooms and it always rewards me with more blossoms.
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’

The lovely, abundant ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossoms bring me special joy all year long! Throughout the month of June, I cut the large, white blossoms to fill stoneware crocks, pitchers, and large vases for our front porch.

As the summer progressed, I closely watched the lush ‘Annabelle’ blossoms slowly dry on the huge bushes. I was waiting for their dry, petals to turn a lovely shade of green. This week, they were ready!

Dried ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossoms

I spent an entire morning choosing just the right size, dried blossoms to fill baskets, an antique wooden box, an old crock, and a vintage pitcher with Hydrangeas. They will fill our home with sweet garden memories for a whole year!

A late summer wreath for our front door

Then I adorned a simple, grapevine wreath with dried Hydrangeas, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ blossoms, and seed heads from Rudbeckia and Bee Balm. It warms my gardening heart every time I open the front door!

Next week, I will gather more dried Hydrangea blossoms to save for Autumn and Winter decorations on our front porch. I will also hang more dried Hydrangeas from the ceiling rafters above my little Paper Garden studio downstairs.

Shhhh! Don’t tell the other perennials in my cottage garden, but I think Hydrangeas, Daisies, and Hollyhocks might be my favorites! On our wedding day, I carried a beautiful bouquet of Hydrangeas tied with satin ribbon. (I asked our talented florist to create a bouquet that looked like I had just gathered the blossoms from my garden!)💕

Dark Phase Tiger Swallowtail (We think!) and Phlox

I’m currently in the midst of another garden project. For the past thirty-five Summers, I have been hopping over Hostas and jumping though a large, naturalized bed of Daylilies every time I wanted to chat over the garden fence with our neighbors behind us. I’m getting older now, so I really should have a nice, safe path alongside my white, picket fence Herb & Tea garden all the way to our back fence.

So, I’m busy digging out Daylilies to create a wide path, adding a layer of cardboard, topped with a thick layer of wood chips. When it is ready, I will add large Pine slices (a final gift from our beautiful trees💕) to create ‘stepping stones’ along the garden path. Can’t wait for this new, easier way to chat over the garden fence! No more hopping and jumping will be necessary! 😊

Hosta ‘Royal Standard’ in bloom (next to a stack of Pine slices)

Our Hosta ‘Royal Standard’ plants were my biggest garden concern this Summer. They were thriving in the Shade beneath our Pine trees for over thirty-five years. In the Spring, I began dividing and moving these special Hostas to several different parts of our garden, hoping that they would continue to survive without deep shade. With lots of extra watering, all of the transplants have survived. I’m so delighted that several of these old-fashioned Hostas are now rewarding us with their fragrant, white August blossoms!

Very sadly. I have one epic garden failure to report…

In May, I splurged and treated myself to a beautiful Spanish Lavender topiary. It looked so lovely in a large container in the center of my Friendship Garden bed. Oh, how I loved that topiary!! It was doing so well for the first month. I carefully pruned the spent Lavender blossoms and it began to produce new buds all over. Suddenly, a very sneaky garden creature began climbing into the container, digging holes in the soil, and chewing on the roots of the Spanish Lavender. I think it was a chipmunk! I tried so hard to outsmart the culprit by carrying the topiary into the garage overnight for safety. I also tried shaking black pepper onto the soil in the container. Each rescue attempt only helped for a few days. Then the culprit was back chewing on the roots. In the morning, the topiary would be leaning sideways in its container. So sad… Soon the leaves dried and fell off. I continued to water my Spanish Lavender topiary stick to no avail. What could I have done differently to save my topiary???? I welcome any suggestions…

How is your garden growing this Summer (or Winter)? What garden joys are you celebrating? What projects are you working on this month in your garden? Have you experienced an epic garden failures?

🌻 Please share with all of us!

We just LOVE garden chats here!

🌻🌻🌻

Perennially yours,

💗 Dawn

P.S. I’ll be back soon with garden-inspired art from my Paper Garden studio!

A Red-Letter Day!

Hi Friends! 💗 A very warm welcome to all of our new friends, too!

(Be sure to read the Words of Wisdom post first!)

Wednesday truly was a Red-Letter Day! Susan Branch was coming to visit in celebration of her newest book, Distilled Genius! Excitement filled the air, as I arrived extra-early at Prairie Path Books to help out with any last minute details. Sandy, the delightful bookstore owner, and her talented assistant, Kate, had been working for weeks to prepare for a very large gathering of Girlfriends (Susan Branch’s devoted fans).

Knowing the crowd would be very large, I intentionally wore my mask both indoors and outside, only removing it for quick photos. I also spent lots of time outside. Susan and Joe wore their masks, as well. Such a little thing to do, that helps to keep everyone safe!💗

By late afternoon, Girlfriends began arriving. It was such fun to sit on the shady patio in front of the bookstore, chatting with Girlfriends as they walked up. It was lovely to see Jo, Ginnie, and her mom again! We have been meeting at Susan Branch gatherings since 2013. When Cynde arrived, we exchanged happy hugs, as blog friends meeting for the very first time! We warmly welcomed Doreen and Greg. It was fun meeting them in person for the first time, too. As we laughed and chatted on the shady patio, the line of Girlfriends waiting at the door grew longer and longer. Our very special evening was about to begin. I had no idea that there was a wonderful surprise waiting for me!!

Kate found me in line and asked me to come inside to help her. Of course, I was eager to help. After picking up my name tag and my copy of Distilled Genius, Kate led me to a table filled with homemade cookies, baked with love from recipes in several of Susan Branch’s cookbooks. She asked me to fill two plates with cookies for Susan and Joe. As I carefully balanced the cookies, Kate led me through the back of the bookstore, out the back door, and in through the back door of the large gathering space next door. I followed Kate, as she led me to a private, cozy space set up like a living room. Susan was sitting on the couch and Joe was sitting nearby.

Oh my goodness!! I introduced myself as I placed the cookies on the coffee table. Kate disappeared, as Susan and Joe invited me to stay for a visit. There were big hugs! (This was my fourth time to talk with Susan and Joe at her book signings. We enjoy one another’s blogs and keep in touch.) Susan told me which cookies were from her grandmother’s recipe and named all of the other cookies, too. They talked about their cross country trip so far, as they make their way to California. Susan asked about my family and shared very thoughtful, heartfelt words.💕 As we talked, Joe took lots of photos. I told Susan about some of the ways her books, her artwork, and her blog have inspired my life over the past 35 years! I shared the story of my white, picket fence Herb & Tea garden, inspired by her Summer book. I shared how so many recipes from her Autumn book have become a part of our family traditions. (My brothers, Johnny and Jeff, would often comment, “Mmmmm, This is really good! Is this a Susan Branch recipe?”) I also shared that I began buying her books long ago as gifts for my sweet mom, Darlene, who was a wonderful cook!

It felt almost like a little visit with Susan and Joe, in their living room, on Martha’s Vineyard! 😉 This once-in-a-lifetime-dream-come-true visit lasted about thirty minutes. It felt like old friends just catching up on one another’s lives. ( Oh, how I wish I had thanked Susan for introducing me to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Such a life-changing book on creativity!) I knew I must end our special visit so that Susan would have time to prepare for her big Book Talk. We parted company with more hugs!💗


When I walked out into the gathering space, a large crowd of 145 guests was seated, eagerly awaiting Susan’s Book Talk. There were Girlfriends of all ages, from 16-weeks-old to their 90s. Several had even traveled from out-of-state to meet Susan. Such a happy group, filling the room with joyful chatter!

Sandy, the owner of Prairie Path Books, gave a lively introduction. 😊Then she asked Susan to read aloud two special quotations from Distilled Genius. So delightful!

Words from vintage prints (Author Unknown)

The moment we were all waiting for had arrived!!

Susan captured our hearts with her wonderful Book Talk. She shared stories of their crossing aboard the Queen Mary 2, in May, with 90 Girlfriends, and some of the special delights of traveling in England. Susan spoke of some of her heroes, whose quotations she hand lettered and beautifully illustrated in Distilled Genius. She explained how her curiosity led her to learn more about these inspiring people ~ reading their biographies, visiting their home museums and gardens, and walking in the places where they had walked!

Throughout Susan’s inspiring Book Talk, a theme of ‘connection’ wove through her stories like a lovely ribbon ~ connecting family & friends, connecting to the wisdom of those who inspire us to learn and grow, connecting to historic places, and connecting to nature. Such important reminders for this time in our lives!

Susan closed with her wish that after reading and savoring the words of wisdom in her new book, readers might consider donating their copy to a school library or a public library!💕

Susan also answered lots of burning questions from her Girlfriends!😊

Then part of our group lined up to meet Susan and have our books signed.

My dear friend, Laura Ashley, is a brand new Susan Branch Girlfriend.
(Laura even has a pet rabbit named Beatrix!😊)

Susan really enjoys spending time with each of her Girlfriends. As we waited in line, we met so many lovely, interesting ladies. It was fun to see a beautiful quilt, made with Susan Branch fabrics, that one Girlfriend brought to show Susan. Susan even signed the back of the quilt for her!💕

Autographed copies of Distilled Genius are available
at Prairie Path Books, in Wheaton, Illinois! 💗

Another part of our group browsed through the lovely bookstore, enjoying homemade cookies and ‘bubbly’ while shopping. Other Girlfriends gathered outside on the patio to chat with new friends and old friends.

Our beautiful evening ended very late, beneath the full August moon. We will always treasure this wonderful gathering, stitched together with special memories and warm friendships.💗

Huge thanks to Susan & Joe and Prairie Path Books!

Perennially yours,

💗 Dawn

P.S. Our next post is coming very soon. 🌻 Bring your garden gloves!

Words of Wisdom

Hi Friends!

Oh, how I love words! It has been a lifelong love affair. I can still remember hours spent pondering just the right word while writing poems in a tiny spiral notebook as a child. On my favorite bookshelf in our living room, right next to our green and white World Book Encyclopedias, my very wise mother had thoughtfully placed a book of Bartlett’s Quotations. I really enjoyed looking through this special book of important words over the years. You can only imagine the boundless JOY that I felt when I unwrapped my very own hardbound copy of Roget’s Thesaurus as an eighth grade graduation gift from my very perceptive Aunt Gilda! I felt so grown up as I studied its pages searching for the perfect synonyms and antonyms.

As the years passed, a passion for ink, markers, and paints also captured my heart. After college, I began studying calligraphy, carefully practicing the strokes that would form each letter. Using my dip pens and bottles of ink for hours made for relaxing evenings. However, there had to be a more interesting way to practice than writing “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” (A silly English sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet). 😉

My calligraphy practice in the 1980s

My love of words saved the day! I began collecting quotations to hand letter and carefully copied my favorite quotations into journals of all sizes. As the years went on, I organized these words of wisdom into interesting categories ~ love, family, friendship, travel, home, garden, children, art, writing, seasons, meditation, … (I’m enjoying looking through the pages of my quotation journals today as I write this blog post.💕) They are still my special treasures! Although I have a Pinterest board filled with quotations and more quotations saved on Instagram, when I need favorite quotation I tend to look back in my journals to find the perfect words of wisdom.

Very often, as I write a letter, I begin with a meaningful quotation at the top of my writing paper. I also love to hand letter a quotation on the back of the envelope. My handmade cards often have a special quotation inside that makes the perfect sentiment!

As we planned our wedding ceremony, we chose favorite Bible verses and quotations from the Persian poet, Rumi. The walls of my elementary classroom always had large, hand lettered quotations from children’s literature, famous leaders, and sweet quotations from my own students.😊

For the past eight years, a favorite Wordsworth quotation has been the tagline of my blog. Often, my blog posts feature a favorite quotation carefully placed on a photograph. I compose many of my photo shots to allow space for words of wisdom.

Oh, how I love words!

Years ago, my life was made even sweeter when I discovered a very special kindred spirit! My favorite author and artist Susan Branch loves words and has been collecting quotations for years and years. Susan hand letters and watercolors her favorite quotations so beautifully. (Susan Branch has always been my inspiration for my little blog!💗)

Susan Branch, via Zoom, in April 2022

In April, Susan invited her devoted ‘Girlfriends’ into her home, on Martha’s Vineyard, (via Zoom) to share her latest book project. She truly believes, “Quotations give us the power to change our world.”💗 Susan shared her huge binders containing her artwork and collected quotations with us! Excitement was building as she announced the title of her latest book…

Hot off the press!

Just one week ago, my pre-ordered copy of Distilled Genius (The Illustrated Secrets of Life) arrived in our mailbox. What a treasure! Susan’s beautiful hand lettering and charming, watercolored illustrations make her collection of life-changing quotations a feast for both the eyes and the heart!💕 It was printed right here in the Midwest, on lovely, cream-colored paper, with Susan’s signature, ribbon bookmark.

Distilled Genius begins with a heartwarming Preface followed by twenty carefully curated chapters of wonderful quotations. An avid reader and lover of words, Susan has included quotations from literature, films, music, and famous people throughout history. I’m delighted to discover many of Susan’s own inspiring words of wisdom sprinkled throughout the 272 delightful pages.

One might expect that a devoted Susan Branch fan would quickly read her newest book from cover to cover. Although I have thoroughly enjoyed looking at many of the chapters, I am intentionally taking my time as I enjoy Distilled Genius! I am savoring each page, quotation-by-quotation. Sometimes with a cup of tea, often on our front porch accompanied by birdsong in the morning or the song of the cicadas on a summer evening. Reading this beautiful volume filled with words of wisdom deserves the gift of time. I know that when I come to the end, it will be such fun to start all over again!💕

My heart keeps whispering that Distilled Genius would be the perfect book of quotations for every home during these confusing, unsettled times. I can just imagine a child growing up now, who also loves words, reaching for this inspiring book! (Hint ~ holiday shopping!)

In a bit of magical synchronicity, just a few weeks ago, I saw Susan’s social media post from her travels in England. She announced that she was planning a U.S. book tour with booksignings at a few small, independent bookstores.

A favorite quotation from the German poet, Goethe, came to mind immediately. I dreamed of the chance to visit with Susan Branch for a fourth time! I should try to make that happen…

My fingers were shaking as I quickly messaged Susan Branch on Instagram and sent her an email. I took a deep breath and emailed Sandy, the owner of Prairie Path Books, in Wheaton, Illinois, to let her know that Susan was looking for a few bookstores to visit. I had always thought that they would be a perfect match!

Then I held my breath…

Susan was very happy for the suggestion. It turns out Sandy is also a huge Susan Branch fan. She emailed Susan immediately with an invitation. The very next day Sandy told me that the booksigning was officially confirmed!

Sandy’s newest display at Prairie Path Books!

The news spread rapidly among the Susan’s devoted ‘Girlfriends.’ 😊The tickets for the August 10th booksigning sold very quickly! I offered to help Sandy prepare for the big day. This is a very tricky time to be planning an event, with Covid numbers in the RED zone in our area. Susan will wear a mask and I hope that all of the guests will also wear masks, too. 🙏🏼 🙏🏼 It is such a little thing that we can all do that makes a BIG difference for everyone’s health and safety!

I’m going to enjoy this rainy afternoon with a cup of orange spice tea, words of wisdom from Distilled Genius, and a happy heart. 💖

Thank you so much for stopping to visit! 💕 Stay well, friends!

Warmest hugs,

💗 Dawn

Flow of Grace

Hi Friends!

Throughout each and every day, there is one ‘word’ that continues to guide me through 2022…

FLOW (verb) ~ to move or proceed smoothly and readily; forward motion; with abundance and ease; “go with the flow” (noun) ~ the creative moment when a person is completely involved in an activity for its own sake; showing no sign of stopping; performing vigorously and enthusiastically; “in full flow”

I can feel this current of change as I write my Morning Pages and as I work with ink, paper, stamps, and watercolors in my Paper Garden studio downstairs. This year, I can also feel the flow of grace as I head out to the garden each morning!

Photographing the perennials in my garden always brings me such joy! This year, most of my garden photos are close ups, with good reason.

The ‘heart’ of my garden has always been my Herb & Tea garden.

Bee Balm and ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangeas in full bloom

When I look up while tending the herbs and mints used for tea, the view has really changed over the past few months!

A mountain of soil is the current backdrop beyond the white picket fence.
Next door a BIG new house is growing, day by day!

Now as I walk through the arbor, there is an exciting, new view from my perennial garden.

My days in the garden begin even earlier now, as I gather my garden tools at 6:00am and get started. This lets me enjoy a whole hour of birdsong before the contractors begin working with their very noisy tools and machines at 7:00, on the dot!

My huge garden project this year has been redesigning the large garden bed that had been a woodland, shade garden, nestled beneath our two, towering 100-year-old pine trees. (See what happened here.)

I spent many weeks removing shade plants that have happily lived there for over 35 years. I tried to find new homes in other garden beds for hostas, ferns, European ginger, and pachysandra.

I bid a fond farewell to the grape mahonia and Lily-of-the-valley. Although I combed through the soil diligently to remove every root, next year should any reappear, it might feel like a nice garden memory!

As I struggled to chop and dig up very long tree roots day after day, I often wished that I had some of the heavy equipment just a few feet away beyond the tall, chain-link, construction fence.

After a while, we learned one another’s work patterns. The friendly workers tried to muffle the deafening sounds of their machines with big pieces of plywood to save my hearing as they framed the new house. Each day, when the contractors stopped for their 11:00 lunch break, I just kept digging. It was so lovely to enjoy the birdsong again while the crew took their break!

Once the large area was cleared, it was time to begin creating my new Sunshine bed! Oh, how I loved transplanting perennials from other parts of the garden that should thrive in this new sunny garden bed. It felt almost like ‘watercoloring’ with real plants! I transplanted beautiful, old varieties of Phlox that grew in the garden before I came 35 years ago. I added several Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ and Stella d’Oro daylilies. As I planted, robins, wrens, cardinals and bunnies stopped to enjoy the show!

Then I made several early morning trips to our city’s free wood chip pile. That’s where I met Jasper, a very friendly yellow Labrador, who also loves free wood chips! It felt so good to finally mulch the new Sunshine bed with wood chip walking paths. No more muddy shoes.😊

Last week, it was such a joy to scatter grass seeds along the edges of my new, ‘right-size’ garden bed. Although my plans often changed over the past weeks, I just went with the flow! I can’t wait until all of the transplanted perennials are in bloom. It won’t be long now…

I’m sure I will make more changes to the Sunshine bed next year. This year, I just used plants that I already had. I’d love to add a few native plants and some flowering shrubs, too.

The new house next door won’t be finished until December. After it is sold, the new neighbors will very likely put up a privacy fence next Spring. I’m so curious to see what kind of fence they will choose… and how my garden might change again!

🌻 The flow of grace continues…


Our hearts and prayers are with the families of seven beautiful lives lost and more than thirty injured by gunshots in the senseless, tragic mass shooting during the Highland Park, Illinois Fourth of July parade.

This is such a complicated, worrisome time in our nation’s 246-year history. We must find ways to work together to end gun violence, preserve women’s health, ensure racial justice and fair voting rights, as we care for one another. Enough is enough.

We can do better! ❤️🤍💙

Perennially yours,

💗 Dawn

Creative Growth

Hi Friends!

The month of May has always been my happiest month in the garden. I just love watching the daily growth in my perennial and herb gardens. Last week, I took great delight in planting containers of annuals for our front porch and added a few tender herbs to my Herb & Tea garden. Our abundance of rainy days blessed the garden… and the gardener!

On the days when Mother Nature was watering my garden, I retreated to my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. It has been necessary to intentionally plan small, daily steps to nurture my creative growth for quite a while now. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron stresses the importance of ”filling the well” to help artists who feel creatively blocked. It was most definitely time to fill my creative well. Little-by-little, step-by-step Springtime arrived in the Paper Garden, too!

On the first day of my special project, I spent hours happily die cutting, layered stamping, and adding highlights with Prismacolor pencils. After several hours, colorful tulips filled my art table. Over the following days, baby’s breath, pussy willows, and cherry blossoms emerged. Ahhh, Springtime! With no pressure to design, the pure joy of creating began filling my creative well… and my heart!

All of these stamps and dies are from The Greetery.

With tiny pots full of Springtime blossoms, it felt almost like being in a flower shop choosing stems to create a bouquet for someone very special. Oh, what fun to clip together tiny paper bouquets! No stress, just pure joy!

Then it was time to fill my tender heart in a very special way…

Mother’s Day was coming… and this would be my very first Mother’s Day without my dear, sweet mom, Darlene. I just knew that Mom would love my plan! I could feel her smile.💕 This May, I decided to celebrate three very special young moms who have become such an important part of my life.

Especially for Ada’s mom 💗

I have known Ada’s mom for a very long time!! She was a student in my first grade class and my second grade class so long ago! For several years, she would come back to help me during her recess time. For many Summers, I looked forward to a very special picnic with her family. During her college years, Ada’s mom would drive over to visit us. She enjoyed picking her favorite ‘tea’ leaves from our Herb & Tea garden and sipping tea together on our front porch swing. My husband and I felt so honored to be guests at her wedding! Ada’s mom now works as a speech pathologist and spends her days helping seniors with Alzheimer’s and other speech therapy needs. She is also working on her PhD in clinical speech pathology. This month, Ada’s mom celebrated her first Mother’s Day! I look forward to meeting little Ada very soon.💗


Especially for Elijah’s mom 💗

Elijah’s mom has been a very special part of our family for three years already. In fact, she is in many of our treasured family photos! She works so hard with everyone at the senior living community where my dad lives. She loved my mom and my mom loved her! Elijah’s mom helps everyone living there feel right ‘at home’ each day. She is always so cheery, whether she is busy at her desk, helping serve meals in the dining room, or running to someone’s apartment to help out. I love to hear stories about Elijah’s day in kindergarten, his current favorite activities, and their family celebrations. Elijah’s mom and I have become ‘sisters.’ (I always dreamed of having a sister.) My ‘sister’ always brightens my day… and gives the biggest hugs! 💗

Especially for Emerson’s mom 💗

I have only known Emerson’s mom for a few short months, yet she has become a true blessing in my life! We are most definitely creative, kindred spirits. Emerson’s mom is the Bereavement Coordinator for the hospice that helped my mom so much last September. When I reached out for grief counseling for my tender heart following the sudden loss both of my brothers to Covid and my sweet mom to an unexpected medical issue, Emerson’s mom entered my life. Her extensive education, experience as a chaplain, and work in the fields of bereavement and spirituality enable her to help children through seniors who are grieving the loss of loved ones. We both enjoy sharing our thoughts and creativity with one another. When I asked her for homework assignments, she began suggesting truly meaningful activities that tap into my creativity in so many ways. I love hearing about her family life and seeing photos of Emerson! She just celebrated her second Mother’s Day! Emerson’s mom and I have been meeting together via Zoom, but we are both looking forward to meeting in person in June. I truly look forward to our growing friendship in the years to come! 💗

How do you fill your creative well when you have difficulty getting started on a project or hobby that you love?

Hope you will share with us!

Wishing you healthy, happy Springtime (or Autumn) days!

Take time to nurture your tender heart, too.💗

Perennially yours,

💗Dawn

Gifts of Nature

Hi Friends!

I bundled up warmly at sunrise on that February morning. My heart told me that there was something very important that I must do… and I always listen to my heart! 💗

I hugged a tree… two trees, in fact.

It was a day to thank our towering pines for the many gifts they have bestowed upon us for over one hundred years ~ homes for the cardinals and other birds, a playground for the squirrels, and cool shade for the hostas, ferns, and mature perennials that thrived beneath them. Such an important gift for our climate, as well. Every few years, an arborist would come to check our pine trees and trim a few branches. He always shared the happy news that our pines were in good health.

As I hugged the trees, gratitude filled my heart! Our pine trees have provided a magnificent background for many of our treasured family photos over the past thirty five years. They provided welcome shade on our deck for quiet mornings, yoga practice, family Fourth of July celebrations, and tea parties with friends. They shaded teacher curriculum-planning sessions on so many summer mornings. The beautiful pines were always appreciated as we talked late into the night with family and friends, from near and far. The neighbors enjoyed the far-reaching branches that shaded their family gatherings, too. What fun to hang a piñata from the lowest pine branches for their birthday parties! Every year in early December, I loved to snip a few pine greens and gather fallen pine cones to fill an antique wooden box and to mix with dried garden gatherings to decorate an antique sled for our front porch.

Our towering pines watched over many life changing moments, too. My husband and I spent many hours getting to know one another while relaxing on my shady deck. A truly heartwarming part of our first date, on a Sunday afternoon in July nearly twenty years ago, was spent talking on my shady deck. The pines cooled our deck and entire backyard for the special picnic where both of our families had fun getting to know one another following our engagement! The following summer, my mom and I spent a lovely June afternoon on our shady deck tying bundles of flowers from my garden with satin ribbons, to hang from the chairs for our Victorian-style wedding ceremony. Ten years ago, the pines shaded our wonderful family celebration in honor of my dad’s 80th birthday.

If those trees could talk, they would tell so many stories of the single woman who dreamed of owning a home of her own to put down roots so long ago. The moment she saw the cozy, little 1922 bungalow, with a swing on the front porch, a big garden, and two towering pine trees… it was love at first sight!💗

Alas, there are BIG changes happening nearby! A very large, new home will be built next door. Half of the branches and half of the root systems would soon be destroyed. Our towering pines couldn’t safely survive the construction next door. So, my hugs and thanks that February morning were also a heartbroken ‘goodbye’ to our beloved pine trees.

Just a few hours later, the heavy equipment arrived…

A week earlier, I met with Matt, the tree man. I had two very important requests! He must be sure to protect my mom’s beautiful Rhododendron that grew on the edge of my Shade Garden, beneath the long reaching pine branches. This large plant grew in my childhood garden and is almost as old as I am. It was a gift to my garden many years ago when my parents moved to Arizona. Every summer, its large, pink blossoms warm my heart! My second wish was to have several slices of the tree trunks to use in a future garden project. Matt promised that he would make my wishes come true!

Oh my! It was a sight to behold! As I safely watched from the door of our deck, Matt worked from high in the air with pinpoint accuracy, cutting long branches, dropping them in the space between my white picket fence Herb & Tea Garden, our deck, and our roof. Mountains of branches were chipped into pine mulch. His team of four worked with guide ropes, chain saws, helmets, and ear protection.

As I watched the crew from the window, they were also watching me! It must have been entertaining to watch the little lady alternating between covering her eyes, giving thumbs up, and prayer hands of thanks as they worked. The four, strong men on the ground performed a ballet of twirls, turns, and leaps to quickly guide the falling limbs away from Mom’s Rhododendron.

Our century old pines towered over 75 feet tall. Our little house shook and my teacup collection rattled as each thirty foot section of trunk plummeted to the ground, landing in an ever-growing pile of branches in the neighbor’s yard.

The white sheet marks my mom’s Rhododendron surrounded by fallen pine branches.

When there was a safe path through the yard, I walked out to carefully uncover Mom’s special plant. It was perfect! Only two flower buds had fallen to the ground.

(You can see my beautiful mom and her Rhododendron in bloom

last summer here. Such a treasured photo.💗)

I walked over to thank the crew for their very careful work and to take a closer look at the fallen tree trunks. That’s when I discovered it…

a final gift from our towering pines!

A huge heart!

None of the crew noticed it… but I saw it right away!

It felt like a final gift of love from our pines.

We will find a way to use the carefully cut wood slices in our new, sunny garden design in the coming months. Although our towering pines are no longer with us, they will always be a huge part of our story!

We cherish their lovely memories…

and ALL of the gifts they gave us over the years!

🌸 🌸 🌸

Wishing you many Springtime blessings!

Stay safe and healthy!

Warmest hugs,

💗 Dawn

Heart and Hands

Hi Friends,

The whole world is watching in shock and disbelief as we follow the unimaginable human tragedy and devastation that continues in Ukraine. Putin’s War has forced over 3.5 million refugees to flee from their homes in Ukraine in search of safety, protection, and assistance. The women, children, disabled, and elderly have been welcomed by Poland and neighboring countries across Europe. Ukrainian men, ages 18-60, suddenly became civilian armed forces heroically battling to save their homeland from unprovoked Russian aggression.

The whole world is also watching as the international community seeks meaningful ways to show our unwavering support for Ukraine and Europe. We will be following the news as the NATO Summit meets Brussels this week. Together we are stronger.

From my little corner of the globe, I have been taking small actions to show my unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. I will continue to support the work of World Central Kitchen with donations as they provide nourishing, hot meals, prepared by local chefs, in Ukraine, Poland, and wherever they are needed during this humanitarian crisis. Providing more than just meals, they are providing hope, dignity, and proof that others care. WCK is making a heroic effort 24/7 in this time of incredible need! Their short videos on Instagram offer a glimpse into the many ways that WCK is helping those in dire need right now.

I have also been learning more about Ukraine and their history. Last month, we watched the 2015 documentary Winter on Fire on You Tube. Although it was heartbreaking to watch (much like recent news reports), this Oscar-nominated film helped us to understand why the Ukrainian people are so brave right now.

In search of a bit of artistic outreach, I wondered what small, creative steps I could take in support of the Ukrainian people. For many years, I have followed the very talented cardmaker, Yana Smakula, who lives in western Ukraine. Yana is posting short messages on Instagram to let us know that she is still safe, but what daily life is like for her now. Yana is inspiring cardmakers everywhere, as she continues to make cards in her craft room in between sirens that force her to run for shelter! Yana’s dedication inspired me to find ways to use my love for paper and ink to support the Ukrainian people, as well.

I have been making small Ukrainian flags to show my unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. I have been sharing them with friends and neighbors who might also like to display them in their windows or other meaningful places.

I have also been busy making cards to let people affected by the war know that they are loved, thought of, and in my prayers. Inside each card is a personal, handwritten note of comfort and support.

I knew that it wouldn’t be possible to send mail to Ukraine in the midst of war. So, I will share my cards with a Ukrainian church near our home. I’m hopeful that they will share them with members of their congregation who are in need of a little extra love right now. I will also send cards to the Ukrainian Embassy in Chicago.

The sunflower has long been used as a symbol of peace in Ukraine. Sunflowers can be seen growing in the countryside and villages throughout Ukraine. Images of sunflowers are on several of my cards… and will have a special place in my garden this summer, too!

On the Ukrainian flag, blue represents the wide blue skies over their homeland. Yellow represents the golden fields of grain that covered Ukraine before the Russian invasion. Both colors are on the insides of my cards, as well.

Working with my hands brings me a sense of peace, as I spend time in my little Paper Garden studio creating ‘paper hugs.’

Just this week, I learned that it will be possible for my cards to bring a bit of healing to Ukrainian refugees in Poland. Artist Danny Gregory is collecting small pieces of art (no larger than postcards). Next week, he will ship a box (or boxes) of our art to his artist friend in Poland, who is volunteering at a center for Ukrainian refugees. She will share them with the people that she is helping.

Update (April 14, 2022): Danny Gregory collected over 1,000 small pieces of artwork. In the photos he posted, I could see my handmade cards of support and paper Ukrainian flags. The boxes of artwork were shipped to his artist friend in Poland last week. (Huge thanks, Danny and JJ, for helping the art community share our work and touch so many lives!) Next week, our small pieces of artwork will be shared with Ukrainian people who have had to flee their country since the horrific invasion uprooted their lives 50 days ago. 💙💛

🌻 I truly hope the recipients will feel a brief bit of healing, hope, and comfort just knowing that others care deeply. Perhaps they might tuck the ‘paper hug’ into their backpack as a constant reminder that we see them and support them, as they begin to make all of the difficult decisions that lie ahead. 💙💛

💙 Our blog is a welcoming place for all who gather here! Heartfelt thanks for stopping to visit today. I hope that you are finding ways to bring moments of peace and comfort to your days… and perhaps even a spot of JOY!

💛 Please let us know how you are finding small moments of peace during this extremely difficult time.

🌻 Take care of yourself, take care of your neighbor,

and do what you can!

Warmest hugs,

💗 Dawn

An Invitation…

Hi Friends!

It has been quiet here for much too long. I have really missed you! 💕How are you? I hope you are warm, safe, and healthy in your little corner of the world. We are well here and taking extra-good care of one another. Everything seems to require so much more careful planning these days, doesn’t it? I really miss the good old days of spontaneity, traveling, and gathering with groups of friends in person.

Last year, I felt so very fortunate to connect with a truly wonderful community of artists through ArtistsForJoy.org and the Lumina Arts Incubator. Oh my, it felt amazing!! Artists of all kinds gathered, via Zoom, on Tuesday evenings to share a powerful, encouraging journey together. This international group included musicians, writers, photographers, potters, performance artists, painters, glass artists, songwriters, poets, quilters, mixed media artists, card makers (like me!), and so many more. Our 13-week Creative Cluster welcomed aspiring artists as well as professional artists. Everyone was so supportive and understanding as we all traveled along our interesting creative paths.

In recent years, I had slowly felt my creative well running dry. Creativity has always been an important part of my life and I knew that it was time to ‘fill the well’ so that my creativity could flow joyously again!

The key to my creative recovery was already sitting right on my bookshelf… just waiting to be read! Published thirty years ago, Julia Cameron’s groundbreaking book on creativity, The Artist’s Way, held the inspiration, necessary tools, and tasks I would need to find creative joy again. Although I had attempted to read it on my own, The Artist’s Way is meant to be worked through in community with other artists.

Last February through May, I could ever-so-slowly feel my creative spirit returning as our Creative Cluster met each Tuesday evening to explore our relationships with our own creativity. Reading one chapter of The Artist’s Way each week, writing daily Morning Pages, planning a weekly Artist Date, and trying a few of Julia Cameron’s introspective weekly tasks lightened my heart and taught me so much about my own creativity. 💕

Throughout the Summer months, I continued to write Morning Pages and plan occasional Artist Dates. In the Fall, I joined the next Artists for Joy Creative Cluster for another 13-week exploration of my creativity. Several artists also participated again, along with many, many artists new to our group. Oh my, I made so many more new discoveries about my own creativity as I worked through The Artist’s Way a second time!💕

Julia Cameron writes that Morning Pages are “the trail we explore and the trail home to ourselves.” Julia reminds us that “an Artist Date need not be expensive. The point is that it feels fresh and exciting to you.” Many of my Artist Dates happened right here at home! It felt so healing to play with watercolors in a sketchbook on a sunny, Winter afternoon. These uncertain times have a way of even changing the ways we nourish our creativity.

Now I’m eagerly awaiting the start of the next Artists For Joy

Creative Cluster and…

YOU are invited to join us! 😊

Our new Creative Cluster begins in February. The sessions will be held on Tuesday evenings from 7:00-8:30 EST, via a secure Zoom meeting. This 13-week adventure will run from February 15th through May 10th. There is no cost to participate. Participants are required to purchase their own copy of The Artist’s Way. (I’m using my older edition and it works just fine, too.)

We begin each Zoom session with a 30-minute group activity. Then we are randomly assigned to Breakout Rooms of 3 or 4 participants for 30 minutes to discuss the weekly topics, tasks, our discoveries, successes, and challenges. Finally, we gather again as a whole group for 30 minutes for a thoughtful creative activity. Each week, I leave with renewed spirit and gratitude for the chance to grow in new ways!💕

Our wonderfully, talented facilitator is Dr. Merideth Hite Estevez (Director of the Lumina Arts Incubator). Merideth is a Juilliard trained professional oboist, a podcaster, a creative coach, and is currently writing her first book on creativity. Most importantly, she would want you to know that she is a busy wife and mother of two delightful young children! Merideth brings joy to our weekly gatherings.

You can ‘meet’ Merideth on her inspiring podcast, Artists for Joy, available wherever you listen to podcasts. Each episode is definitely worth a listen. I enjoy listening in my little Paper Garden studio while I work.

You can register for The Artist’s Way Creative Cluster at:

ArtistsForJoy.org

No matter what creative passions fill your heart and soul, you will grow through Julia Cameron’s wisdom and guidance as you explore your creativity in a most welcoming community!

⭐️ Update: Follow the link above if you would like to reserve your space in the Fall Creative Cluster. It will begin in September 2022. Hope you can join us!

I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about the Creative Cluster. I look forward to hearing all about your current creative projects. Do you ever feel ‘stuck’ creatively? What do you do to ‘fill your well’ creatively? Hope you’ll share with us!

Thank you so much for stopping to visit today. I’m really happy to begin blogging and visiting my blog friends again. You always inspire me!💕

Take extra-good care,

💗 Dawn

P.S. In the blog archives you will find many posts about my creative journey!☀️

My Mom, My Friend

Hi Friends,

Strong, loving, smart,

happy, kind, caring, talkative,

dependable, creative, curious, independent…

My mom, Darlene, has always been my first and best teacher. Today and every day, my mom is wonderful inspiration as I bloom and grow!

She will always be the woman that I admire most. ❤️

With a very tender heart, today I am sharing the deeply sad news that my sweet mom recently passed away. Our family is very grateful for the wisdom of her doctors, the compassion of her hospice nurses, and the many prayers of our friends and family. It was all so peaceful, as my dad, my husband and I held Mom’s hands…

After raising Johnny, Jeff, and I, my parents retired to the sunny Southwest for 25 happy years. My mom just loved the sunshine, the mountains, and the hummingbirds that visited her desert garden every day. My parents really enjoyed hiking in the desert and exploring many of our beautiful National Parks.

Oh, how we all cherished our family visits! My parents loved to come back to Illinois to ”cool off” each summer. Their visits were always a highlight of our year. My brothers and my husband and I visited my parents in Arizona throughout each year to spread out the family fun. Between our visits, writing letters, frequent phone calls, and heartwarming Skype visits always kept us close.

Three years ago, when it was time to move back closer to family, my parents settled into a new, easier lifestyle in a beautiful, brand new senior living community near all of us. My parents instantly met a whole new circle of friends there. Throughout the pandemic, their senior living community has been a true blessing, helping them to live independently, in a safe space, while surrounded by friends. Together we found creative ways to stay close throughout the lockdowns and restrictions. Although the past two years have been challenging, my mom and dad bravely met each challenge they faced along the way.

Home and family were the two most important things to my mom, Darlene. She always enjoyed hosting wonderful family gatherings. She was my first and best teacher. Each time we were together, I learned something new. Mom was an avid, lifelong reader. She loved to write letters and poetry. She always enjoyed spending time in her Midwest rose garden and later in her Southwest desert garden.

This Rhododendron in my garden grew in my mom’s garden during my childhood.

Early on, my mom gave me the wonderful gift of gardening. It began with nurturing houseplants on my bedroom windowsill. Mom helped my skills flourish when I bought my cozy, little home with the big garden. During the week, I would water everything. Each weekend, when my parents would visit, Mom would identify the weeds and the flowers. Slowly, I learned from her. I have always felt so close to my mom whenever I am in the garden!

Early on, I learned how important creativity is to a happy life… just by watching my mom. She turned fabric and thread into beautiful, one-of-a-kind clothes for me. I felt so grown up when Mom taught me how to follow patterns and use her sewing machine. Working together, I learned how to paint and wallpaper in my childhood bedroom. As I grew up, I admired Mom’s handmade quilt, stained glass pieces, pottery, macrame, and crafty projects of all kinds. I quickly discovered the joys of creating with paper and ink. Over the past year, Mom was a huge supporter of my creative journey along The Artist’s Way. We had many long talks about our creative paths, often with a paintbrush, watercolor markers, or colored pencils in hand. Such a beautiful way to add a bit of magic to our days!

Mom and I enjoyed many lovely hours in this garden.

Throughout her life, Darlene actively volunteered in our church, school, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and at the public library. In recent years, Mom and I helped in the pretty gardens of their senior living community. I’m planning to carry on our tradition of volunteering together in the gardens and library there while visiting my dad.

In early April, our family suffered another monumental loss, when both of my brothers, Johnny and Jeff, passed away after a brief battle with Covid-19, in the home that they shared. My parents, my husband, and I continue to rely on our faith, family, and friends each day as we mourn their loss.

Tomorrow, November 6th, is my mom’s 88th birthday. We will have a private family service in the morning. In the afternoon, we will celebrate all three special lives during a visitation with friends who live in the senior community. We are so grateful for the incredible love and friendship that has surrounded our family for the past six months. Thoughtful expressions of sympathy continue to wrap us in love.

Since it is not yet time to gather together in person, we invite you to join with our family, from wherever you are, on November 6th, at 12 noon (in your time zone) to say a prayer, take a moment of silence, light a candle, or whatever would feel most meaningful to you. We also encourage you to do a small act of kindness on November 6th, in honor of Darlene, Johnny, and Jeff ~ who lived their lives sharing kindness with others every day!

Such a special walk together!


For the past six years, I have been dedicated to raising awareness for Alzheimer’s research. It feels like one of the most important ways that I can make a difference. The most heartwarming experience of all, was walking hand-in-hand with my mom, just one week before she passed away, in the Alzheimer’s Awareness Walk at their senior living community. I will cherish that memory always…

Thank you all for your lovely expressions of sympathy. Your friendship is truly a blessing in my life! In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association, a charity very close to our family’s hearts.

I feel so very blessed to have Darlene as both my mother and my friend. From time to time, I’d love to share some of our stories here on the blog.

Thank you for visiting here today. Be safe!

With love,

💗 Dawn