A Fresh Start

Hi Friends!

It felt so good to open the door to a brand new year! Our January days have been milder than usual, so the weeks are flying by quickly. I have enjoyed some winter walks in the park with friends and several walks through our yard to check on the garden. Gentle rains have been kind to my perennials and herbs. When the garden is happy, it makes the gardener happy, too!

How do you prepare for a fresh start in the new year? Sharing inspiration and our traditions among friends is one of the special pleasures that I look forward to on the blog every January! I hope that you will share with us, too…

Heartfelt words, from poet Morgan Harper Nichols, are a meaningful welcome in my 2023 Self-Care bullet journal.

For me, the new year always means a brand new, dot-grid, bullet journal overflowing with blank pages… and new possibilities! As the month began, I spent many hours setting up new pages in my 2023 Self-Care journal. It always feels like I am truly creating a fresh start!

For the new year, I have begun stenciling soft, colorful backgrounds with Distress Oxide inks. Adding artwork just makes it more fun!

This year, I’m celebrating my sixth year of keeping a Self-Care bullet journal. Adding bits of color and artwork help to keep it interesting! Each month, I create pages to track my daily sleep, workouts and number of steps. There is something very powerful about transferring the data (in ink, in analog form) from the app on my phone and my Fitbit onto the pages of my journal every evening. It really helps to keep me accountable when it comes to healthy habits! Each evening, I also add to my Gratitude page (so very important, especially during life’s stressful times), list a daily Creative Step, and a daily Small Joy. This nightly bedtime routine only takes a few moments and is such a peaceful way to end each day.

For the past two years, I have also enjoyed a lovely morning routine at my journaling desk. My Morning Pages journal holds my thoughts on creativity, my worries, and my creative plans for the day. Inspiration from walks in nature and my weekly Artist Date are often a topic in my Morning Pages, as well.

‘Dutch Door’ pages hold my growing list of Creative Affirmations

My Morning Pages always end with creative affirmations (from my Self-Care bullet journal, shown above). Over the past two years, I have discovered just how valuable these strong, positive statements can be! In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron reminds us that, “Affirmations help achieve a sense of safety and hope.” As I close my journal and watch the sun rise from our kitchen window, I feel centered and ready to face another busy day. Julia Cameron’s words are so true, “Morning Pages allow you to happen to your day, instead of your day happening to you.” When I must miss a day of Morning Pages, I can definitely feel the difference all day long!

Choosing a ‘word’ to guide me through the new year is one of the most powerful ways that I welcome each year! Every Fall, I begin listening for “One Little Word” that will help me grow in powerful, new ways. Throughout our home and garden, there are visible reminders to focus on my ‘word.’ This year celebrates my twelfth ”One Little Word.” I can already tell that this will be a very important year of growth as I focus on my new ‘word’ and continue to mindfully practice all eleven previous words!

My 2023 ‘word’ is surrounded by all of the other words that continue to help me live my best life.
There are visible reminders to simplify as I move forward.
Some definitions of simplify in my Self-Care journal

My reading stack is filled with inspiration to help me move forward throughout the year ahead. I read two of these books several years ago, however my life became much too complicated to undertake such an ambitious lifestyle change. So, this ‘word’ has been waiting for me for a while. I am taking a BIG step as I begin this long-awaited journey toward minimalism!

I am also finding wonderful inspiration to guide me in You Tube videos from Dawn Madsen, The Minimal Mom. Her tips feel very practical and encouraging. Of course, everyone’s journey is unique! I am seeing my world through new eyes as I take steps to approach life as a “cozy minimalist.” My end goal is to own “just the right amount of things” to focus my priorities on my passions!

This month, I am off to a good start. Following the “onion method,” I have worked my way through all of the kitchen drawers and cabinets. I have already made many trips to a nearby donation center. Yet I am mindful that this is only the first “layer” of things that I will remove from our home. Each time I go through the kitchen, I will find more things to declutter. At some point, it will feel like I have “just the right amount of things.” Things that I actually love and use!

When I packed away our Christmas decorations, I carefully curated my collection of Christmas ornaments and my folk art Santa collection. Now there are “just the right amount” of the most special ones packed away until next Christmas. I hope that others who discover them at the donation center will enjoy them as much as I did over the years!

The winter months feel like the perfect time to begin working toward my goal of having “just the right amount” of things in our home.

Less is… more!

Less is more… time to focus on what matters most today.

Less is more… breathing space.

Less is more… blessings to share with others.

Less is more… freedom to create art.

Less is a more… relaxing, nurturing “Home Sweet Home.”

Less is more… room to blossom in unexpected ways.

Less is more… freedom for adventures of all kinds.

Less is more… time to savor life’s possibilities!

___________________________

I’m curious to know what special ways you welcome in the new year.

Are you working toward any new goals in 2023?

Would you like to join me on the journey as I “right-size” the things that fill our home?

If you have worked to declutter, do you have any “words of wisdom” to share with us?

_____________________________

I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments below!

May your fresh start be a nice one!

Warmly,

💗 Dawn

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The Week Between

Hi Friends!

Warm greetings from our cozy, little home to yours! I hope you are feeling healthy, warm, and safe on this final day of 2022.

Our family enjoyed a quiet Christmas celebration this year, spending lots of time together ~ time for reminiscing, sharing favorite Christmas memories, and exchanging heartfelt cards and gifts. We are a small family now, just my sweet dad, my loving husband, and me. This is our second Christmas without my dear mom, Darlene, and my brothers, Johnny and Jeff. We all agreed that although it looked like Christmas, sounded like Christmas, and tasted like Christmas… it just didn’t feel like Christmas for any of us this year. We could all deeply feel the presence of their absence. They will always live on in our hearts. Love is like that…

My heart was telling me to add some new holiday traditions this December. So, this year, I embraced an old-fashioned holiday tradition for the very first time ~ drying orange and apple slices.

As the fruit dried slowly in the oven, I savored lots creative time, die cutting and ink blending some dried citrus slices to use on handmade cards. Hot cocoa and Christmas cookies also inspired some special greeting cards. (It always tickles my fancy when art imitates life!)

Such simple pleasures! It was such fun to hang dried orange slices on our kitchen wreath, fill bowls with dried fruit, and to make a dried citrus garland for our pantry.

The ‘week between’ has always been one of my favorite weeks of the year. I cherish the time between Christmas and the New Year to make space in my days for quiet reflection and writing letters to faraway friends. I love adding birthdays and anniversaries to our special Celebrations wall calendar! I also spent many hours creating the pages in my new 2023 Self-Care bullet journal.

My husband had vacation time this week, so we enjoyed some walks in pretty places and a visit to the Christmas flower display at our nearby conservatory. The ‘week between’ is just perfect for walking hand-in-hand, dreaming together, and reminiscing!

Many years ago, my husband and I celebrated the Christmas season together in Paris. Many, many years ago, I celebrated Christmas and New Year’s with dear friends in Germany. The ‘week between’ is a wonderful time to share such special memories of faraway friends who have become our German family. For the past 45 years, I have always celebrated the New Year twice! With a video call at 5pm (Central Time), we can ring in the New Year in Germany with our dear friend. We sing Happy Birthday, as we enjoy the German fireworks celebration at midnight together from her balcony! “Same procedure as every year!”

Tonight we will honor our Irish roots in a new way! My husband and I will try a special New Year’s tradition from Ireland. Just before midnight, we will open our back door to ‘let the Old Year out.” Then we will open our front door at midnight to “let the New Year in.” It will be so nice to welcome 2023 from our front porch, greeting any neighbors we see outside!

Perhaps you might also be feeling ready to “Let the Old Year out.”

We can hold on to all of the blessings and precious memories…

as we open our hearts wide

for a more gentle, peaceful, New Year!

Throughout the year, I enjoy the wonderful words of the Irish poet, John O’Donohue.

His words during the ‘week between’ always call to my heart.

“As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.”

John O’Donohue

from: Bless the Space Between Us

John O’Donohue

from: To Bless the Space Between Us

Wishing you a good start to the New Year, friends!

Be well,

explore new possibilities,

and open your heart!

Warmest hugs,

Dawn

Scatter Kindness… Like Autumn Leaves

Hi Friends!

It’s the perfect time to turn our hearts to cozy afternoons, enjoying the changing colors, soft snuggly sweaters, a generous mug of hot spiced tea, and thoughts of special loved ones! Can you feel it, too? 🍁

Here in the Midwest, we were blessed with very nice, warm weeks and spectacular Autumn colors. I soaked up Nature’s inspiration and planned a few special Artist Dates in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. It was time to create some Autumn inspired cards… and scatter a bit of handmade kindness!

Autumn Bliss stamps, Jumbo Curiosity Buckeye Leaf die
(from The Greetery)

Recently, I have begun s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g my creativity by filling a small basket with a limited number of stamps, dies, and ink colors. Much like the “capsule wardrobe” concept, it has been great fun to use just a few art supplies in several different ways!

Autumn always brings the warmth and joy of cozy sweaters! So, I tried to capture that special feeling with a dry embossed ‘knitted’ background layer. It was such fun to blend inks in the brilliant shades of Nature’s color palette on this Buckeye leaf.

Gingham plaids also add an Autumn vibe, especially when paired with natural hemp fibers. I heat embossed a favorite quote by Emily Brontë with gold embossing powder onto vellum. Blending brushes and Distress Oxide inks made it easy to turn a white cardstock Buckeye leaf into an Autumn treasure!

I couldn’t wait to reach into my basket for a Patchwork die (also from The Greetery)! Cozy, warm, patchwork quilts are a beloved Autumn treasure. This time I stamped falling leaves onto the squares of a tiny paper quilt. Then I die cut and stamped the same leaves to add a bit of dimension to the card front. It’s filled with leafy goodness!

Slowly, carefully, piecing these gingham and solid patches felt like an artful, paper meditation. (If you need me in the coming months, just look for me in the Paper Garden ‘quilting’ my heart away!💕) Windblown leaves are scattered across the card highlighting the heartfelt sentiment.

Imagine an Autumn leaf fluttering down onto a patchwork quilt spread out for a picnic in the warm sunshine. Pure bliss! Oh, how I enjoyed listening to the words of my inner artist: 👩🏻‍🎨 “You could try this!” “What if…?” and “I can’t believe that I never thought of that before!” 😊 Artist Dates are always meant to be joyful, playful times!

For Veterans Day, I wanted to create an extra-special card to honor my favorite hero ~ my sweet dad!! This card celebrates a true love story! My dad (age 20) surprised my sweet mom with a marriage proposal on her 18th birthday during a big, unexpected November snowstorm. Soon Dad was drafted into the Army and sent off to Basic Training just two months later, in the 101st Airborne Division, in Kentucky. My parents were married in May and moved to Texas for more Army training. Just a few months later, Dad was deployed to Korea during wartime.

Mom wrote Dad a letter every single day while he was stationed in Kentucky and serving in Korea! You can see some of her letters in this photo. On each long, wonderful letter, Mom wrote S.W.A.K. (Sealed With A Kiss) inside the envelope flap. She always put the postage stamp upside down (as a token of love). Dad saved every single letter while he was stationed stateside. He wasn’t able to save the letters that Mom sent to Korea because he was on the battlefield. I’m certain that Dad remembers what Mom wrote though. Her words of love and stories from back home helped him make it through terrible times!

Over the years, I have heard many of these stories from my parents. Mom’s daily, heartfelt letters share the stories of a young bride-to-be as she planned their wedding while her beloved sweetheart was far away bravely serving our country. Now these very special letters are in my care. I have tied them with a satin ribbon (from our own wedding day)… and I can’t wait to begin reading them!💕

So, back to the Veterans Day card…. 😊 Dad’s stories are filled with so many examples of his courage, his kindness to others (even in the midst of wartime battles), his strong family ties across a great distance, and a beautiful love story that continued to grow despite the miles between them! I very carefully snipped a postage stamp from one of Mom’s letters and added it to Dad’s card… upside down, of course!💕

Mug of Art stamp, She is an Artist stamp (both by Impression Obsession)

This colorful card was made for a very special, very creative friend in celebration of her 30th birthday. She loves the colors of a beautiful sunset. So, it was fun to play with watercolors on her card, the envelope, and a special bookmark, too! Her gifts included a lovely journal and a very special book. (This book has been so inspiring to me that I have read it five times already!) Perhaps you can guess which book???? ✨

I have promised myself to keep my special Cardmaking Journal (started in 2015) up-to-date. So, before I sealed each envelope, I entered some quick notes: the date, recipient, occasion, supplies used, and sentiment. It’s so heartwarming to look back and remember all of the special people and their one-of-a-kind cards over the years! 💗

It does the heart good to scatter kindness… 🍁🍁🍁

🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

Thank you so much for visiting today!

Wishing you a lovely Thanksgiving!

Take extra-good care, friends! 💗

Warm, cozy hugs,

💗 Dawn

Harvest Thyme

Hi Friends!

Our hearts go out to all those whose lives have been affected by Hurricane Ian. The heartbreaking news reports and photos from friends remind us all of the power of nature. This continues to be a heavy time for so much of our world…

A peaceful, little visit among friends will do our hearts good.

Spending extra hours in the garden this week has felt so nurturing! Day by day, I have been noticing the color changes tiptoeing through the trees. Our shorter Autumn days and cooler temperatures are reminding us that change can be beautiful.

Our ‘Autumn Blaze’ Red Maple is showing off it’s ombré colors this week. Soon all of the leaves will turn a beautiful, deep, scarlet red.

It’s Harvest Thyme in the garden… a time that I always look forward to every Autumn! Yesterday I gathered baskets, twine, rubber bands, and my herb snips and happily followed the flagstone path to my Herb & Tea Garden. This raised bed garden, surrounded by a white picket fence, is truly the ‘heart’ of my garden. It always feels like the fragrant plants are nurturing me, as I care for them!

Lemon Balm, German Thyme, Greek Oregano, and Rosemary

I enjoy snipping fresh herbs and mints throughout the growing season for both cooking and steeping cups of herbal ‘tea.’ There is nothing better than fresh, homegrown herbs!

This week, I spent a glorious morning harvesting herbs to dry. I will dry some of them to use for cooking and herbal teas. However, my favorite way to use bundles of dried herbs is for decorating our home over the Winter months. I always feel nurtured by gifts from the garden!

Bundles of dried herbs hang along a wooden pole in our old-fashioned kitchen and tiny bundles of herbs hang in the pantry. I also love to tuck herb bundles into flower arrangements, baskets, and grapevine wreaths. Dried herbs and flowers hang from the ceiling rafters in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs, too!

Greek Oregano, German Thyme, Rosemary, and Lemon Thyme

I tied these bundles of herbs onto a vintage wooden hanger just to save space for drying. When I stepped back, I noticed how sweet it looked! Perhaps I will look for a place to display them right on the hanger.😊

Just recently, I learned about a clever, easy, fast way to dry herbs. So, of course, I couldn’t wait to try it out! I was so curious to see if it would work. Have you ever tried the ‘Subie Method’ for drying herbs?

It was an entertaining experiment…

Step 1 ~ I cut a bundle of fresh Greek Oregano and placed it into a paper bag. Then I folded the top of the bag closed. It’s important to use a paper bag so that the moisture in the herbs can pass through the paper.

Step 2 ~ I placed the bag of fresh herbs on the dashboard of my Subaru parked in the Autumn sunshine! 😊 I let the sun shine through the closed windows to dry the herbs. (Please do not attempt this while driving.😉) Most herbs should dry within one or two hours.

The Results…

It worked quite well. Since our temperature was only 68 degrees, I left the herbs in my Subie for almost four hours. I turned the bag over half way through the experiment. They were definitely drying nicely! The deep green leaves kept their color and shape. My car smelled wonderful, too! 😊

Dark rainclouds from an approaching storm ended my experiment too soon. I brought the bags of herbs in the house and the next morning they were completely dried! (I also tested a bag filled with Lemon Balm during this experiment, with the same good results.)

I look forward to trying the ‘Subie Method’ again on a hot Summer day. Next time, I won’t bundle the herbs with rubber bands for better air circulation. I will also dry individual leaves for tea. I will place a layer of paper or cardboard between the paper bag and the dashboard to help absorb the moisture, too.

My heart felt lighter as I hobbled to and fro in the garden. (I’m still wearing a special orthopedic boot as my fracture begins to heal. It’s feeling a little better this week!😊) Each time I passed my Subie, I giggled a bit as the solar power was drying my herbs!

Yucca seed pods, Rudbeckia seed heads, ‘Anabelle’ Hydrangeas

Next it was time to collect some garden gatherings to decorate our front porch. I filled an antique, wooden box with two tall, sturdy, spikes of dried seed pods from our Yucca plants. These plants grew in our childhood garden for many years. My mom, Darlene, gave me her Yucca plants when my parents retired to Arizona over thirty years ago. The Yuccas have rewarded us with spikes of lovely, cream-colored blossoms every year.

I added tall stems of Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ seed heads and dried ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossoms next. This Autumn arrangement is not finished yet, though! 😉 Today I will add a few tall stems of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy.’ This rustic arrangement will continue to grow and change throughout the coming weeks. I’m planning to add something new each time I wander through the garden. It will be a mindfulness practice focusing on gratitude for the abundance of peace and beauty that the garden provides us throughout the year!

Yet another reminder from nature

that change can be beautiful…


I thought you might enjoy two wonderful videos about growing and harvesting herbs. Relax and enjoy… with a cup of tea, of course!💕


🌻 Please let us know about some of your favorite Autumn traditions!

🌻 What’s happening in your garden this month?

Wishing you healthy, happy Autumn days, sweet friends!🍁

Perennially yours,

💗Dawn

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