A Fascinating Walk!

VoloBogIL

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!

DSCN8339

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. 

DSCN8488

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.

DSCN8344

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.

DSCN8353

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.

DSCN8396

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.

DSCN8365

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.

DSCN8391

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

DSCN8385

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.

DSCN8372

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.

DSCN8409

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

DSCN8477

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

DSCN8479

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

DSCN8363

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…

 

Save

Save

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

DSCN8145

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.

DSCN8177

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.

DSCN8206

Queen Anne’s Lace

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

DSCN8178

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.

JulyPrairie

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.

DSCN8234

Queen Anne’s Lace

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

DSCN8237

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.

collage

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.

DSCN8195

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.

DSCN8196

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.

DSCN8227

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!

DSCN8231

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!

DSCN8181

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!

DSCN8267

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!

♡Dawn

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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!

IMG_0904

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.

IMG_0914

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.

IMG_0925

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!

IMG_0926

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.

IMG_0929

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!

IMG_0931

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.

IMG_0935

IMG_0937

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.

ColorBlocking

 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,

♡Dawn

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… ♡

 

WhSave

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Home ‘Tweet’ Home

Foxgloves

Hi Friends!

Oh, my! These young summer days are keeping me as busy as a bee outside! I celebrated the Summer Solstice by spending the whole day in the garden. Time in the garden has been a rare blessing for the past few weeks. So, it was a real treat to make time for a bit of pruning and weeding on the longest day of the year. What a glorious morning it was!

IMG_0720

‘Stella d’Oro’ Daylily (Hemerocallis) and ‘Dalmation Rose’ Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) add a welcome splash of color to our white, picket fence Herb & Tea Garden in June.

 

As I worked, surrounded by a sea of bright, orange Daylilies and fluffy, white ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangeas, the butterflies and bees were busy working right alongside me. The birdsong was especially cheerful on this special day, too!

As I busily pruned the Quince bush that grows near our ‘Welcome’ arbor, I had to suddenly stop cutting the long branches.

For there it was…

RobinEggs

Robin’s nest with four eggs waiting to hatch.

The mother robin must have seen me approach with my pruning sheers in hand and quickly flown away. I was astonished to find the sturdy nest with four beautiful eggs!  Of course, I had to stop pruning and left the nest undisturbed, hoping the mother would return. The Quince bush has a very funny shape right now, short in front, with long branches remaining in the back to protect the nest.

DSCN8027

With great relief, I noticed the mother robin return shortly to her little Home ‘Tweet’ Home!

Just a few feet away, while I weeded along the Friendship Garden bed, I could hear very cheery, bubbling birdsong nearby. I quickly discovered that the music was echoing from a unique, wooden birdhouse that has been in my garden for years. I’ve always considered it decorative, with its barnwood box, metal roof, and interesting, antique metal embellishments. Mounted on a pitchfork, this birdhouse always stands waist-high in a Daylily bed, near our garage.

HomeTweetHome

Imagine my delight, as I followed the singing and peeked in to see little beaks bobbing up and down! All weeding stopped, as I reached for my camera, and watched Mother Nature’s show on this first day of summer! The happy family of house wrens continued to sing for their breakfast, while the mother and father dashed out to bring back moths and other insects. They watched me, as I sat motionless watching them. One-at-a-time, the adults would hunt for an insect, land on the white picket fence near the Foxglove, fly to the small Elm tree, fly to the birdhouse, look around and dart into the hole. It happened again and again as they worked to feed their happy, little family! (You can enjoy their bubbly birdsong here.)

JuneGarden

There is nothing quite like a small, happy family taking good care of one another,

in an old home surrounded by colorful, flower gardens.

⚛⚛⚛

 

It is definitely a Home ‘Tweet’ Home kind of summer here this year!

I have undertaken a HUGE project that will truly keep me as busy as a bee for quite a while.

Working on home improvements makes me oh-so-happy!

I have always loved restoring the beauty of an older home.

In fact, that’s the reason that I moved into this cozy bungalow so many years ago.

All those years of watching This Old House and reading Old House Journal have left their mark on my heart.

As our home nears the century mark, it’s time for another project filled with hard work and tender, loving care.

PorchRestore1

Front Porch Restoration ~ Phase One: Ceiling and Trim

While my parents were visiting us in May, we shopped together for the best tools and supplies for my big project. In early June, I began the front porch restoration. Scraping and painting the ceiling and trim took weeks. I am taking special care as I remove the old paint, so clean up each day has been long and meticulous. My husband and I wrapped the front of the house in plastic to protect it from dripping paint. (Thank goodness! There were lots of drips.) I’m so happy with the way the ceiling turned out!

This week, I will scrape and paint the four porch columns. In the coming weeks, I will work to strip and restore the floor. Finally, we will have new railings and stairs designed and built. With each phase of the project, I am learning new things. It was so exciting to discover all of the colors that the ceiling had been painted over the years! As I work, I often think about the history of our front porch and why it is so important to me to carefully preserve it. I can’t wait to hang the original porch swing again, bring out the original rocking chair, and add our vintage wicker furniture to this very special outdoor room!

Day-after-day as I work, neighbors are offering kind words of encouragement and passersby often call out, “Lookin’ good!” as they walk past. My favorite music is playing  and I’ve been singing along to keep my energy high. I’ve had to climb down from my ladder several times to do a little happy dance… because that’s just how I am feeling! ♥

Taking on a HUGE project like this really feels quite

exhausting,

achy (with sore muscles),

hot (especially wearing protective gear),

solitary (missing fun times with my friends),

challenging (as I solve problems along the way),

but most of all…

empowering!!

I love it!

♥♥♥

Waving from the top of my ladder!

I’ll be back just as soon as I can… with so much to share.

Sending happy summer wishes from our little Home ‘Tweet’ Home to yours!

Warm hugs!

♡Dawn

P.S.  When was the last time you completed a hard task that left you feeling empowered? Hope you will share with us…

Save

Save

Save

Save

Picking Daisies

IMG_0670

Hi Friends!

Waiting in line has never been my ‘cup of tea,’ but this afternoon it felt different.

For I was waiting patiently in line, in my Daisy patch… behind all of the pollinators hard at work.

Slowly I inched my way into the large clump of Daisies, alongside the busy, little bees.

My morning work was finished, and my happy reward was picking Daisies.

Fresh picked Daisies, white Anemones, and Anemone seed heads

Fresh picked Daisies, white Anemones, and spent Anemone seed heads

As I waited for each little pollinator to move on, I began to count the blessings that the garden brought me this week. One-by-one, as I snipped each ‘He loves me’ Daisy, I remembered those sweet, heartwarming moments…

⚛ On Tuesday morning, as I was cutting the grass, our lawnmower stopped. Only halfway through the front yard, I tried and tried to restart the engine to no avail. David, a landscaper hard-at-work in a nearby yard, noticed my dilemma and came to the rescue. From his truck, he produced oil, a new spark plug, and his tools. Right there, in the middle of his busy morning, he adjusted the carburetor, and was able to start my lawnmower one more time. The kindness of a stranger had saved the day and I worked quickly to finish my job! (Shhhhh! I have a ‘thank you’ gift to leave in David’s truck when he comes to work in the neighborhood this week!)

⚛ Later that afternoon, while I was working in the garden, our neighbor, Jim, walked up. He had seen the lawn mower problem that morning, and ever-so-kindly offered to put the lawnmower into his truck and take it to a trusted repair shop. Now the repairman is trying so hard to work his magic, and then Jim will pick it up again with his truck. The kindness of a young neighbor (with a truck) is always so appreciated!

Raindrops on pink Clematis and Peony blossoms

Raindrops on Clematis and Peony blossoms

⚛ On Thursday morning, as I weeded the front garden beds, two lovely ladies stopped to chat as they walked past the garden. It was fun to talk with Susan, as we shared our tried-and-true tips for avoiding mosquito bites in the garden. A bit later, Devi stopped to introduce herself. She is a sweet, retired teacher, new to the neighborhood. It was such fun to tell her about our wonderful library and all that it offers! I invited her to step through the arbor to see my Friendship Garden in the backyard. Gardening always seems to invite the nicest passersby to stop and talk. It’s one of nature’s best kept secrets!

⚛ On Thursday afternoon, Elena stopped to visit. Since the day she was born, I have enjoyed watching her grow and blossom. She shared the exciting news that she now has a home of her own. Instantly, I offered to dig up perennials for her very first garden. So, plans are underway! It always warms my heart to share my garden and the gift of gardening with friends. Two other special friends, Hollice and Maria, will also come to dig up perennials to start gardens for their new homes this summer.

'Garden Grow' collage

Supplies used: Altenew ‘Garden Grow’ stamp set, Canson watercolor paper, Versafine Onyx Black pigment ink, Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers, paintbrush, water, and Post-It notes for masking images.

⚛ Saturday brought the blessing of gentle showers all day long. So, I happily spent many hours in my ‘Paper Garden’ studio downstairs. It was such fun to experiment with the Altenew ‘Garden Grow’ stamp set, creating masks to design some little garden vignettes. As I watercolored the images, using Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers, I thought about special friends who could use a bit of cheer. Soon these images will become the focal points on handmade cards. Creative time adds sunshine to the rainiest of days!

Yellow Iris and Victoria Blue Salvia

Yellow Iris and Victoria Blue Salvia, after the rain

Picking Daisies this afternoon truly did feel like an exhilarating tonic for the soul!

As the sun shone down upon the blossoms,

I slowed down to nature’s pace and took time to reflect.

So many blessings from the garden brought unexpected joys to these early June days.

Sometimes… waiting in line can be blessing, too!

⚛⚛⚛

Thank you so much for picking Daisies with me today.

Your visits and comments are such a joy!

Happy Springtime days!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  What unexpected joys blessed you this past week?

Our True Colors…

DSCN75732

A patriotic display at the 3 French Hens French Country Market, along the banks of the historic Illinois & Michigan Shipping Canal.

Hi Friends,

We are celebrating Memorial Day weekend across our country… and our colors are showing! Americans always think of this weekend as the unofficial start of summer. Our hot, humid, rainy days in the Midwest suddenly do feel like summertime!

The delicate blossoms of Cranesbill Geranium, Lilies of the Valley, Daisies, Allium, and Spirea add color to the garden in mid to late May.

The delicate blossoms of Cranesbill Geranium, Lily of the Valley, Daisies, Allium, and Spirea add color to the garden in mid to late May.

Our perennial and herb gardens are flourishing with all of our recent rains. This week, our Friendship Garden bed is just beginning to show its lovely Springtime colors as pale, pink Peonies, light purple Iris, and deep purple Siberian Iris bloom in abundance. Clematis vines fill the arbor with fuchsia and purple blossoms. Springtime color is everywhere!

MemorialDay

Yesterday I gathered Peony, Daisy,  Anemone, and Ajuga blossoms to fill a festive vase. The small, red, silk poppy was made by veterans in our veterans’ hospitals.

In honor of Memorial Day, our true colors are the most important ones on display everywhere. Our flag on the front porch is blowing in the warm, May breezes. Pots of geraniums are all abloom with tiny flags, too.  Small red, white, and blue bunting hangs across the archway in our dining room. A white, stoneware pitcher is filled with a collection of American flags.

BecauseOfTheBrave2

Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, in Elwood, Illinois.

Last week, when I drove into the grocery store parking lot, I noticed an elderly man, sitting quietly near the door. He proudly wore his VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) uniform and held a big bunch of red, silk poppies. As shoppers exited, he greeted them and collected donations for our veterans. Of course, I couldn’t wait. With my donation in hand, I walked right over to thank him for his service, made my donation, and accepted the red, silk poppy with so much gratitude. When I asked where he served, he named several battlefields in Korea. I told him that my dad also served in Korea, and that I recognized some of the same battlefields from my dad’s stories and carefully documented Army scrapbook. He kindly asked me to thank my dad for his service, too… and I promised that I would. Later, as I packed all of the ingredients for our Memorial Day celebration into my car, I knew that the most important thing I brought home that day was the small, red, silk poppy.

The simple tradition of wearing a silk poppy pinned to the lapel dates back to 1918. Inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” by Canadian poet John McCree, the red poppy is a symbol of remembrance for all of the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. We show our true colors when we observe this special ritual over Memorial Day weekend.

DSCN5523

During visits to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, prayers for peace and quiet gratitude, for the sacrifices made by these men and women whose lives were lost in service to our country, always bring tears to my eyes.

One of the most important ways that we can show our true colors is to help our children, grandchildren, and students understand the significance of Memorial Day. Hopefully, during their lifetimes, a day will come when we no longer have to send Americans into harm’s way. When my sweet neighbor, Karla, comes to visit, she always notices the flag that hangs on our front porch from May through November. Sometimes we talk together about why we display our flag and what it means. Now that she is seven years old, Karla is just beginning to understand our true colors.

On Memorial Day, the flag is raised quickly to the top of the staff, then slowly lowered to the half-staff position, to remember the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.  At noon, the flag is raised to full-staff for the remainder of Memorial Day. This ritual of remembrance helps remind us not to let their sacrifices be in vain and calls upon us all to continue to work for liberty and justice for all.

SomeGaveAll3

The Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial, in Marseilles, Illinois, is the first memorial of its kind, honoring our fallen by name, while the conflict is still going on. Since 1979, every year right after Memorial Day, the names of servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives over the past year are etched into the granite of the Wall.

DSCN1569

… and so many other brave men and women who made the the ultimate sacrifice.

Remembering those who gave their lives in the Middle East.

Remembering those servicemen and women who gave their lives in the Middle East.

We all share the hope that no more names will be etched on The Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial in the years to come…

Bundles of letters sent home during World War II

A vendor at an antique fair told us recently how she found this collection of letters written during World War II. These bundles of letters document the lives of men and women in service to our country. It would be so interesting to read the stories these letters hold.

In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, asking Americans to stop and remember, at 3:00pm on Memorial Day.  As we pause to remember, it’s so important to remember the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. While volunteering to help our military families, I was fortunate to hear the stories of mothers, wives, and sisters whose loved ones are currently serving in the Marines. Today we are fortunate to have email and Skype to keep families close during military deployment. While volunteering with Operation Write Home, I learned just how important it is for families at home to receive a letter or card from their hero, written by hand from the heart. My mom still treasures the letters that she received from my dad while he was serving in Korea. Their cherished bundle of letters, still tied with a ribbon, is such a tangible reminder of the sacrifice that so many families make in service to our country. Military families continue to experience the ultimate sacrifice, as precious lives are lost or changed forever. Our military families show their true colors every day!

 

How will you celebrate Memorial Day this year?

Do you have any special Memorial Day traditions?

This Memorial Day we are adding an extra-special event to our Memorial Day weekend. My parents are here visiting from Arizona. Today we are having a very special family gathering to celebrate my parents’ 64th wedding anniversary!! ♡ What a blessing to celebrate this special day with both of them!! We will share their memories of their wedding day, planned while my dad was away serving in the Army. Luckily, Dad was granted a very short leave and arrived home on the day before his wedding! He moved his new bride across the country, to live near the military base. Before long, my mom had to carry on bravely at home, as her new husband shipped off to serve our country in war. Such a heartwarming story of true colors and true love! ♡♡

Cherish the day!

♡Dawn

 

Kindred Spirits…

AfternoonTea

Hi Friends!

So many treasured moments to hold in our hearts forever!

Last week, a lovely group of kindred spirits gathered from across the Midwest

to enjoy a long-awaited, experience of a lifetime ~ Afternoon Tea with Susan Branch.

♥♥♥

For the past thirty years, Susan Branch‘s handlettered books, filled with lovely, watercolored illustrations have been such an inspiration in my life.  Our home and garden, our family traditions, our holiday celebrations, and most recently, our little blog, have soaked up the flavors of Susan’s creativity. Susan generously shares her gifts, time, and kindness with adoring readers from across the globe. She always shows us how much she appreciates her fans.

This summer, Susan and Joe are celebrating the publication of Susan’s newest book, Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams, already a New York Times Best Seller, by driving across the country to meet Susan’s devoted fans. Special events are planned in 23 different cities, as Susan visits small, independent bookstores across America.

Here in the Midwest, our excitement grew quickly, as tickets sold out and the big day drew near! Susan would be the celebrated guest at an Afternoon Tea in her honor, where she would speak, answer questions, and sign books for her fans (lovingly known as her Girlfriends). This event was Susan’s second fundraiser for The Women’s Exchange of Winnetka, where women are empowered to follow their creative spirit.

Please join us for Afternoon Tea ~ with Susan Branch…

Westmoreland

{♥ Photo credit: Linda M.}

Driving through heavy Chicago area traffic in a terrible rainstorm couldn’t even dampen our spirits on May 10th. We were all just thrilled to spend an afternoon with Susan Branch… and we were bringing our own ‘sunshine’ to welcome her! The Springtime downpour ended just in time for our special gathering of Girlfriends, at the beautiful Westmoreland Country Club, in Wilmette, Illinois.

TeaFriends

{♥ Photo credit: Linda M.}

A friend (who I met at Susan’s last tea party) and I arrived early so that we could visit. We have kept in touch through cards, emails, and our blog for the past two years. We shared a book, handmade cards, and perennials from our gardens with one another. True gifts of the heart, from kindred spirits! Very soon more Girlfriends arrived and we quickly discovered that we were all kindred spirits. The Girlfriends at our table came from several towns in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois. We enjoyed getting to know one another, as we waited for Susan to arrive. {Huge, heartfelt thanks to Linda, Jo, and Karen, who graciously shared photos for today’s post!}

IsleofDreams

Susan’s newest book, Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams, is an inspiring, handlettered, watercolored memoir. It is the most wonderful book!! Based upon diaries that she has kept her entire life, Susan has written her memoir in three parts. She thinks of The Fairy Tale Girl as the appetizer, Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams as the main course, and A Fine Romance as the dessert. Susan’s devoted readers have hungrily awaited each new book in this delicious trilogy!

♥♥♥

WelcomeSusanBranch

As guests continued to arrive for the tea party, a hum of excitement began to build throughout the room. I stepped into the lobby, peeked out the window, and to my surprise… standing outside all alone (while Joe parked the van) was Susan Branch! Without even stopping to think, I went out on the porch to greet her. (It must be the teacher in me!) I welcomed Susan and there were several big hugs ~ just the two of us! We talked about all of the places they had visited so far on this trip, our parents, and Susan’s excitement to meet everyone. (Thankfully, I had my camera in hand to capture this unexpected moment, while we waited for Joe!)

WelcomeGirlfriends

It was time for Susan and Joe to be escorted inside by Deb, the event planner. There were 140 excited Girlfriends (and even some Guy friends) waiting inside! Still on cloud nine, I quietly ‘floated’ back to my table at the tea party. Then it dawned on me what had just happened… a treasured moment, totally unexpected, captured in my heart forever!

TimeforTea

The tea party was a feast for our eyes and taste buds. Fresh fruits, delectable tea sandwiches, scones, and desserts filled our plates, while stacks of our beloved Susan Branch books added a literary touch to our tables!

Dawn&SusanBranch

{♥ Photo credit: Jo R.}

Susan visited each table, warmly greeting all of the Girlfriends, while Joe took pictures and chatted with everyone. Susan and I enjoyed another quiet conversation, as I eagerly shared how closely I connected with her first home on Martha’s Vineyard. She bought her little home, Holly Oak, on her own, and with help was able to create the home and garden of her dreams. I knew just how she felt… and how this little home would forever be a part of her heart! Kindred spirits!

SoHappy

{♥ Photo Credit: Linda M.}

It was time for Susan’s talk. She positively glowed with excitement and charm. Can’t you just feel the excitement in the air? Susan shared several favorite stories from her memoirs, talked about the writing process, answered all of our questions, and even delighted us with a little song.  She brought along two very special books to share with us.

Wilmette2016

{♥ Photo Credit: Joe Hall}

Susan shared how important Girlfriends have been throughout her life. We felt the same emotions as we listened with rapt attention and so much admiration. Kindred spirits, one and all!

SusanBranch1

Susan shared stories of growing up, in California, as the oldest of eight children. She talked about the important lessons she learned from her parents. She shared the exciting news about selling the movie rights for her memoir. Together we suggested actresses that could portray Susan and the actor who could play the role of Joe, in a movie or tv series based upon her life.

SusanBranch2

Getting to know her readers and talking one-on-one with each of us might be Susan’s favorite part of her booksigning tours. We each wore nametags (designed by Susan), so she recognized each of us right from the start. Many of the Girlfriends already know Susan quite well from her engaging blog comments, Twitter feed, and popular Facebook page. What a treat it was to visit in person that afternoon! Kindred spirits!

SusanBranch6

The heartwarming stories that we shared, let Susan know just how much her books mean to all of the Girlfriends. Susan took the time to connect heart-to-heart with every one of us.

GirlfriendsSB

Out of the blue, Susan mentioned our little blog, letting me know that she has visited here quietly many times. I was so touched, that it was hard to even soak it all in! Susan’s kind, generous words will remain in my heart forever. Practically speechless, I do remember telling her that she was my inspiration for creating this happy gathering place for kindred spirits. ♡

♥♥♥

The lines at Susan’s book signing events  are always very long… and filled with joy! For it is in these lines, that new friends meet and old friends reunite. Just imagine spending time in line chatting with women who share all the same passions. In line, I met a new friend who just happens to live four blocks from me! We both love teaching, gardening, decorating, and travel. Kindred spirits! Over the years, whenever I passed by her house, I always admired the charming, white picket fence, grapevine wreath, and pretty shutters. It’s so lovely to know that we both find our inspiration from Susan’s books! We are already planning to visit one another’s gardens this summer.

♥♥♥

A friend from Wisconsin met another Girlfriend standing in line, who lives in the same town, very close to her! It’s just amazing to make such wonderful connections while waiting in a booksigning line. Yet we all understand how Susan brings kindred spirits together!

SusanBranch3

Of course, there were warm hugs! ♥ Lots of hugs!

Susan&Dawn

I feel so blessed to have met Susan at three different booksigning events over the years. As she signed each book, I told Susan about how that book connected with my life. I told her how the recipes in her books have become part of our family traditions. I shared my tradition of gifting her Love book to each of my friends as bridal shower gifts many years ago, but never bought a copy for myself, since I never planned to be married. At the tea party, a special friend gifted me with a copy of this out-of-print book, and Susan signed it for my husband and I that very day. It felt like a complete circle of love!

HeavenWithin

I told Susan how I used her ribbon bookmark to mark a passage that spoke to my heart in each book. Susan’s books are always filled with the most wonderful, handlettered quotations!  Imagine my surprise, when I shared how this page and quotation in Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams was so important to me… and Susan told me that it was also her most cherished quotation! ♥ Kindred spirits!

SusanDawnJoe

Joe joined us for a photo, too!

WonderfulDay

Old friends reunited… and new friends getting to know one another!

Kindred spirits, one and all!

DSCN7563

Heartfelt thanks for coming to visit us, dear Susan and Joe!

Safe travels as you spread happiness from coast to coast!

We are all still smiling and floating on cloud nine!

Kindred spirits are like that!

Hugs from the Heartland!

♡Dawn

P.S.  Do you have a favorite Susan Branch book? Let us know if you have met Susan at a booksigning event. If you write a blog post about it, be sure to share a link with us!