Artist Date ~ A Walk Down Memory Lane

Hi Friends!

Warmhearted greetings! I hope that you are healthy, safe, and cozy today in your little corner of the world. I am still feeling wrapped in the warmth of last week’s Artist Date. It truly was a walk down memory lane, in the sweetest of ways!

One of the joys of my Renaissance (the ‘R’ word that I use for retirement) is creating one-of-a-kind, handmade cards. It’s always such fun to surprise family and friends with these tiny pieces of my heart. My joy was doubled each time I mailed off a handmade card to my parents in Arizona. They felt like tiny, ‘paper hugs’ and kept us close in spite of the miles between us.

Every time I visited my parents in their lovely, desert home, I noticed my cards on display in places of honor ~ on the fireplace mantel, on top of my mom’s oak, rolltop desk, and in my dad’s Lionel train room. I often stopped to peek at my little works of ‘heart.’

Two years ago, when the time came to help my parents move back to our area, they surprised me with a very special gift. My mom filled a package with all of my handmade cards. What a treasure! I carried this very special package in my backpack on our flight back home to Illinois. Then I gently placed the package in a sunny, yellow, archival box on a shelf in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. I looked forward to opening it when the right moment came along…

My first Artist Date of The Artist’s Way Creative Cluster felt like the perfect time! I gently carried the yellow box upstairs and enjoyed a sentimental walk down memory lane, as I carefully spread all of the cards on our dining room table. Although the sun was streaming in through the lace curtains, I’m certain that it was these ‘paper hugs’ that warmed my soul. There were so many handmade cards of all kinds created over six years. The insides of the cards were also decorated and filled with sweet sentiments and notes with news of the week.

My earliest cards were created right here at our dining room table using a Big Shot and a few embossing folders and dies. I can still remember the joy I felt as a brand new card maker!

My passion for patterned paper, dry embossing, buttons, and twine grew with each tiny creation. I only had black ink and blended chalk for a bit of soft color. With a lifelong love of lettering, I was so excited to collect sentiment stamps!

Early on, I adored dry embossing on patterned paper creating the feel of vintage, patchwork quilts. As my collection of stamps and dies grew, I was so grateful to set up a dedicated, creative space downstairs in our unfinished basement. Oh, how I loved carrying a big cup of tea (to warm my hands) down to my new Paper Garden studio!

I hung dried Hydrangeas and herbs from the ceiling rafters, added task lighting, tables, a rag rug, and music. Antique wooden boxes held many of my supplies. I felt so blessed to have a space to be messy and play for hours and hours. Newly retired, it was so nice to have ‘a place to go’ each day! Eight years later, my little Paper Garden studio is still a very special blessing in my life.

Wreaths, wreaths, and more wreaths! You will find a wreath on our front door, in the dining room, in the guest room, in the kitchen, on the deck, and on our garden gate. Simple, grapevine wreaths are my favorite. Soon they began appearing on my cards, embellished with die cuts and stamping. Die cut sentiments on my cards became a new passion. As my ink collection slowly grew, I loved to match ink and paper colors.

I was so inspired by Art Impressions Watercolor stamps. Oh my! Separate stamps for each tiny bit of foliage, flower, branch, container, tuft of grass, and creature provided endless possibilities. Watercolor markers, watercolor paper, and a No. 4 round brush let me create tiny vignettes to my heart’s desire. I grew more interested in light and shadow and composition. I will always remember sitting in my parents’ desert garden watercoloring tiny, desert scenes. I was inspired by Nature’s color palette, as we hiked in the Sonoran desert, and the colors of my Midwest perennial gardens for so many cards. I could feel my creative heart expanding as I stretched my skills. That year, I began packing a few art supplies whenever I traveled. There was always space for this precious cargo in my backpack… and I needed it with me! 🙂

Pure Innocence stamps and dies melted my heart and are still such fun to create with! They bring back memories of playing with paper dolls as a child. Creativity should feel like play! I began to pack die cut images, watercolors, Distress inks, and patterned paper for paper piecing whenever I gathered with creative friends for our monthly   paper crafting ‘Crops.’

Creating tiny cards and tags using die cuts, watercolors, dye inks, and Prismacolor pencils always makes my heart smile! They add the perfect touch tied onto a bouquet of garden flowers or fresh, baked treats for friends and neighbors.

My mom shared her passion for gardening with me so long ago. So, naturally, I love to add florals to her cards! Watercolors, layered stamping, and ink blending brought these colorful blossoms to life.

It is always fun to include my dad’s favorite things on his cards! Tools, antique telephones, classic cars, toy trains, and vintage motor scooters make him smile. I love the way he studies each card to figure out the techniques I used. 🙂

Over the past two years, I have taken great delight in hand-delivering so many handmade cards to my parents. It’s such a blessing to actually watch them open each card and smile! Their apartment has a growing display of my latest little works of ‘heart.’

This Artist Date brought back so many wonderful memories of the early years of my creative journey! It was a chance to reflect on the ways I have grown as a maker and a creative over the past several years. As I carefully tucked all of the cards back into the yellow box, I knew that a tiny bit of my heart remained in each card. It excites me to think of all of the new skills that lie ahead… just waiting to be explored!  🙂

I am so very grateful to be a part of The Artist’s Way Creative Cluster. It feels like one of the very best gifts that I have ever given myself! I wonder where this incredible journey will lead me next?

What are you busy creating at the moment?

Are you curious to explore any new creative skills?

♥ ♥ ♥

Hope you’ll share with us!

Thank you for stopping by today!

Our hearts are with all those affected by the terrible winter storms.🙏🏼❤️

 

Sending inky hugs!

Dawn

 

 

 

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A New Creative Journey

Hi friends! 

Welcome to all of our new friends, too! I am delighted that you joined us here in our cozy, little gathering place. I hope that today finds you enjoying small moments of self-care, nurturing yourself with hot tea in your favorite cup, and setting an intention for the days ahead.

Creativity has always been an important part of who I am… and who I am becoming. Just last week, I began a long-awaited, creative journey that truly feels like a river moving through me! It’s introspective, joyful, a bit scary😉, and filled with challenging opportunities to learn and grow. You’re invited to come along, from time to time, as I tiptoe down this new, creative path!

I feel so grateful to be a part of a (virtual) Creative Cluster exploring The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. For over twenty-five years, this best-selling book has been helping artists discover and nurture their creativity. We are a large group of creative souls ~ including writers, painters, musicians, poets, dancers, and many more. We work with paints, paper, fibers, wood, music, words, fabric, etc. For the next twelve weeks, our diverse group of creative souls from across the U.S. and other countries will gather each Tuesday, via Zoom, to explore Creativity as we work through The Artist’s Way course together.

Our wonderful leaders, Merideth and Vanessa, warmly welcomed us all as they skillfully guided us through an introduction to The Artist’s Way. We learned more about the key parts of this guided course in Creativity: weekly reading assignments, daily Morning Pages (three pages of handwritten journaling each morning), planning a weekly Artist Date (an intentional, sacred time to explore our inner artist), and completing some of Julia Cameron’s weekly tasks. We all committed to adding these important activities to our busy lives through mid-May!

Before long, we were all randomly assigned to ‘breakout rooms’ of three or four “soon-to-become-friends” for the next hour to explore several discussion topics. Within moments, two other artists and I met and discovered that we were kindred spirits! We shared our thoughts, plans, hopes, and dreams so easily. We had such interesting discussions about excellence vs perfection, making time for creativity in our very busy lives, sharing our creativity through blogging and podcasting… and so much more. What a joy to connect with other creative souls as we travel along this path! Our time together flew by so quickly as we shared inspiring books, poets, and podcasts.

As we gathered together as a whole group again to share our thoughts, it warmed my heart to see the faces of so many talented creatives in our new, artistic community! Soon it was time for each one of us to make our very own Creativity Contract, inspired by Julia Cameron. We made it official with a contract signing ceremony and a group photo! 🙂 The next day, I used a bit of Washi tape to attach my Creativity Contract to my Morning Pages journal.

 

Four years ago, I participated in a lovely, international book club to work through another very inspiring book by Julia Cameron, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again (an Artist’s Way Program for Retirees and Other Creative Souls). The tools we used to explore our creativity included Morning Pages, Artist Dates, Solo Walks in nature, and prompts for Memoir Writing. I was so blessed to meet my cherished friend, Vicky, in that book club. We continue to encourage one another as we travel along our creative paths. The distance between Illinois and New Zealand seems so tiny for kindred spirits! Blog posts about that Artist’s Way experience are: here, here, here, and here

It feels so nurturing to begin each day at my journaling desk writing Morning Pages again. I can already feel my creative inspiration ever-so-slowly returning. I’m really looking forward to planning Artist Dates each week! 🙂 They will just feel very different to me during the pandemic when so many public places are closed and we are staying at home. However, it will be a unique opportunity to s-t-r-e-t-c-h our creativity in many, new directions!

Julia Cameron cautions that this twelve-week path to creative recovery or discovery will raise strong emotional peaks and valleys, including joy, skepticism, giddiness, grief, resistance, and hope. Over the next three months, I’m hopeful that I will grow more resilient and confident as I develop the skills to make and execute my creative plans and dreams. From time to time, I look forward to sharing my progress with The Artist’s Way here on the blog. Our positive, encouraging, gathering place for kindred spirits seems like a cozy, nurturing space to share my new, creative journey!

If you are visiting from our Creative Cluster, I’m so happy that you stopped to visit! 🙂 Be sure to introduce yourself in the comments. We’d love to ‘meet’ you! You will find my introduction on the About page of the blog!

What creative projects are you planning or enjoying this week?

Be well! Stay healthy!

Heartfelt hugs,

Dawn

 

 

 

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Winter Gardening

Hi Friends!

Rabbit! Rabbit! Wishing you the very best as we begin this new month together! I hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy… and warm! Know that I am keeping you close at heart as February begins.

I’ve been singing this song for the past few days…

Today is the perfect day to take a little walk through my garden! In Illinois, we have been experiencing a snow drought due to warmer than usual weather throughout November, December, and most of January. Over the past few days, though, my garden has turned into a ‘marshmallow world.’  Last Tuesday, we had six inches of snow. A big snowstorm on Saturday and Sunday added at least ten more inches. (Just over 40 centimeters in all.)  Bundle up! Let’s take a walk!

Gazing at all of the snow covered buds on our Magnolia tree, near the front porch, gives me such a feeling of hopefulness.

With the snow almost to the top of my boots, I made my way to the backyard. The towering Pine trees look lovely with their heavy boughs frosted in white.

The huge Rhododendron (nearly my age) grew in my mom’s garden when I was young. Today it looks exquisite adorned with sparkling snow and tiny icicles. The large buds fill me with even more hope as I dream of the billowing, pink blossoms that await us!

The Yucca plants, cloaked in white, also were gifts from my mom’s garden many years ago. I’m dreaming of their tall spikes filled with cream-colored blossoms. In the words of garden writer Sydney Eddison, “Gardens are a form of autobiography.” So true!  I treasure all of the stories that my garden holds. They truly warm my heart… even on the coldest of days!

The Mason Bee house hanging from our deck has been decorated by Mother Nature, as well. Last year, we noticed that several new bees emerged as the warm weather arrived. I hope they enjoyed our colorful, old-fashioned perennials and the blossoms on our herbs and mint plants!

The snow reached over the top of my boots as I peeked into the ‘heart of my garden.’ My Herb & Tea Garden will always be my very favorite place to while away the hours, savoring the heady scents of the culinary herbs and mints for tea.

It looks like Benjamin Bunny was hopping through the garden very early on this first day of February! I have noticed so many different tracks in the snow the past week. In addition to the rabbits and squirrels, I spotted some unusual animal tracks in the snow. The neighbors on both sides of us have seen coyotes and red foxes in our yard recently!

♥ ♥ ♥

My garden is such a special blessing in my life all year long! While the garden sleeps, protected under a thick, white blanket of snow, I especially enjoy the blessings of my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. Ink, paper, watercolors, paintbrushes, stamps, dies, and stencils are my ‘garden tools’ as I enjoy winter gardening in the studio. It’s chilly downstairs, so I always bundle up and bring hot tea to keep me warm as I make cards.

The most wonderful stamps and dies, from The Greetery, keep me inspired to do a bit of winter gardening!

Sprigs of winter berries and mistletoe, created using layered stamps and Distress Oxide inks, are ready to fill tiny paper Mason jars, vintage bottles, stoneware pitchers, and watering cans for future cards. I just love the chance to gather garden ‘bouquets’ all year long! 🙂

I have also been creating tiny Shiplap boards to build backgrounds on cards. First, I blended Distress Oxide inks onto white cardstock. The Shiplap die (also from The Greetery) embossed the wood grain as it cut these little, wooden planks. It was so relaxing to create tiny wooden walls for upcoming cards!

Feeling creative during the pandemic has been a real challenge for me. Our lives have been turned upside down for almost a year now. So, I’m trying extra hard to spend some of my time at home creating more handmade cards. I’m certain that receiving a ‘paper hug’ in the mailbox will warm hearts… when we need it most! 

Are you finding it hard to be creative in this moment?

Have you been spending a little time in nature?                                                       

Are you already making plans to get your vaccine?                                                     

Hope you will share with us…  

♥ ♥ ♥

Take extra good care!

Warm, squishy hugs,

♡ Dawn

Stillness…

Hi Friends!

It began as a quiet Winter’s day here in the Midwest. After a nice morning spent with my parents, I headed home to watch the ceremonial registering of the 2020 Election ballots in the U.S. Capitol Building. I still have such fond memories of visiting the Capitol Building as a child on a special, family trip to Washington, D.C. Perhaps that is where my interest in government began so long ago.

Tragically, January 6, 2021 will be remembered for an assault on democracy in our homeland by American terrorists. As I watched in shock while white Supremacists climbed the Capitol stairs and scaled the walls, I kept asking myself, “Where are the police and the National Guard? How can this be happening?” It was such a contrast to last year’s Black Lives Matter marches for racial justice that were surrounded by police in riot gear and National Guard troops. Enough is enough!

The peaceful transfer of power is a cornerstone of our government. Thankfully, democracy prevailed! I noticed small changes late into the night when members of Congress slowly came together to work toward change. The events of Wednesday have further opened our eyes to the extreme dangers of the deep divide that separates Americans. Although I am fearful of the things that could happen during the next twelve days, I remain very hopeful that things will improve for everyone with the peaceful transfer of power to the new administration. I pray that our new leaders will guide us carefully through the pandemic, saving lives and helping us all slowly move back into our routines. Working together can make life better for us all!

♦ ♦ ♦

Since Wednesday, I have felt a strong need for quiet and stillness… just to process all that has happened. There have been many conversations with family members and video chats with friends abroad as we all try to understand. I have also been listening to the voices of Black women and learning just how much trauma they are feeling in the aftermath of Wednesday’s attack on our democracy.

Sipping soothing, herbal tea while rereading last year’s journal brought me comfort in the stillness

My ‘word’ for 2020 proved to be very helpful as I learned to savor all of the unexpected time spent at home!

Tucked behind each monthly welcome page, were my goals and a list of things I looked forward to during the month. There were so many changes during the year as Covid restrictions completely upended our daily lives! Although I made fewer handmade cards, I wrote so many more letters to friends, near and far, last year. We were all looking for personal ways to connect at a distance.

It was interesting to revisit some of the lessons learned that helped me through 2020.

As I reread the pages of my 2020 Self-Care bullet journal, I found so much peace in all of the monthly Gratitude pages. There were so many blessings, large and small, in the past year. I’m truly happy that I documented them all on my journal pages!

I looked back on the little things that filled my December days. A few times throughout the year, I document the little things that are currently happening. These pages become tiny time capsules of months gone by.

I quietly reflected upon all the valuable lessons that my Self-Care journals have taught me over the past three years. During my first year of bullet journaling, my monthly “Reasons to Be Proud” pages were filled with things I had done for other people. Ever since, I have intentionally documented things that I am doing for my own Self-Care each month. It was a challenge at first to find things that I had done for myself. Now it has become easy to fill a whole page with things that I do for my own Self-Care each month! 🙂 I am often surprised by the unexpected ways that my bullet journals help me to grow.

Savoring the healing stillness during this emotional week has been a true blessing for me. I’m looking forward to ‘restarting’ the New Year next week! 😉 I have a brand new journal to fill with healthy habits and positive thoughts. I also have a brand new ‘word’ to guide me through whatever 2021 brings!

How are you feeling this week?

What has helped you through these challenging times?

Hope you’ll chat with us…

♥ ♥ ♥

Please take extra good care of yourself!

Stay safe and healthy!

Sending healing hugs,

♡ Dawn

A Merry Little Christmas

Hi Friends!

The holiday season feels so different this year! Our family is being extra cautious as we celebrate a “merry little Christmas.” For the very first time, we won’t all gather here on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day out of love and concern for everyone’s health.

Instead we are looking forward to spending precious time with our parents, just two family members at a time (wearing masks, of course). We had a sweet morning visit for Christmas Eve and will have another special morning visit on Christmas Day, too. My brothers will have nice afternoon visits with our parents.

Knowing that our holiday celebrations would be very different this year, we decided to plan a nontraditional Christmas. Instead of a tall Christmas tree filled with favorite ornaments, we have two small trees. In the living room window, a small tree in a large, Shaker-style basket glows with tiny, white lights, primitive penny bunting, and a star on top. Such a simple, quiet celebration that feels ‘just right’ this year. Our dining room has a small forest-style tree, with tiny, white lights and just a few very special ornaments.

Christmas cards from family and friends hang from ribbons as they do every year. This year, the cards feel even more special ~ like paper hugs from loved ones whom we have not even seen in person this year. We truly miss them all!

As always, our front porch decorations have a quiet, old-fashioned feeling. The railings are decked with evergreen garland with tiny, white lights and large, white bows. Antique wooden boxes are filled with evergreen branches. I took advantage of our mild November weather to fill a basket with dried, garden gatherings to hang on the front of our house. An antique sled is decked with a bouquet of the holly-like leaves of Mahonia from our garden.

We have been watching Christmas movies, listening to Christmas music, and taking little drives to enjoy the Christmas lights all around town. Yet everything feels so different…

Our prayers go out to all those fighting for their lives in hospitals and their families waiting for them at home. At the moment, we know several people who are ill with Covid-19 even though they took careful precautions every day.

We are so grateful for the healthcare heroes and first responders who work on the front line, day-after-day, month-after-month. All of the essential workers who put themselves at risk every single day working in grocery stores, driving public transportation, and delivering mail and packages have our gratitude. Our hearts go out to the dedicated teachers and their students who are doing such hard work every day as they navigate this whole new way of learning.

The best gifts of all this Christmas are the vaccines that are arriving at the hospitals each day! All of the residents in my parents’ senior living community will get their first vaccines next week. My husband and I will be waiting for our turn for vaccines in the coming months. We are feeling hopeful…

Wishing you quiet moments

of peace, love, and joy

as you celebrate

your own “merry little Christmas” this year.

Although we may be far apart,

you are always close to my heart! ♥♥

Stay safe and healthy!

Warmest hugs,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  How will you celebrate the holiday season this year? Hope you will share with us!

Togetherness…

Hi Friends!

Togetherness, during this year of change, feels so very different! Thankfully, we are all finding ways we can gather while we stay safe and healthy at home. Today’s letter is a very long one! You will need a cup of tea or perhaps some eggnog. 🙂 Get cozy, sweet friends! Hope you’ll enjoy…

Longtime friends of our blog know how much I cherish the hand-lettered words and beautiful watercolors of my very favorite author and artist, Susan Branch. Susan’s creativity has touched my heart ever since since 1986 when her very first book was published. Six years ago, Susan’s blog inspired me to enter the wonderful world of blogging. I always look forward, with immense joy, to the times I can gather with Susan and her Girlfriends. We always celebrate togetherness as the entire room overflows with creativity, kindred spirits, and kindness!

A few memories from a book signing with Susan Branch in 2013

I was overjoyed to meet (and hug!) Susan for the very first time at a small, independent bookstore during her cross country road trip to celebrate her book, A Fine Romance. New friendships made that evening continue to grow today. Long after most everyone went home, Susan and Joe lingered to chat with us about their travels in England as we gathered outside around their van.

A lovely tea party with Susan in 2013

Later that same week, Susan gathered with even more Girlfriends at a tea party in her honor in Wilmette, Illinois. It was such a treat to hear more stories about Susan and Joe’s travels in England. As we all waited in a very long book signing line, dear new friendships formed among kindred spirits. Of course, there were more hugs as Susan signed my books!

Another delightful tea party with Susan in 2016

Meanwhile, Susan wrote and illustrated the next two books in her wonderful memoir trilogy, The Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams. So, she and Joe celebrated with another cross country tour in 2016. There was an even bigger tea party, in Wilmette, Illinois in Susan’s honor! Kindred spirits reunited that day to celebrate deepening friendships as we met more new friends. Susan has a such a wonderful way of bringing us together. Of course, there were more hugs from Susan! She truly touched my heart with her ever-so-kind words that day. Oh my! I was so surprised when she told me that she enjoys stopping by to quietly read our little blog.   Kindred spirits!

Togetherness suddenly changed for us all this year. Throughout the Spring and Summer months, while she stayed at home, Susan worked extra hard on a new book in her home studio, on Martha’s Vineyard. She realized that we would all need a little ‘extra’ Christmas spirit THIS year!

My copy of Home for Christmas arrived, hot off the press, several weeks ago. I carefully tucked it away until the first week of December when I knew I would need a little ‘extra’ Christmas. What a delight!  Susan’s charming story of her very special family Christmas in 1956 will warm your heart, bring back fond memories of your own, make you smile, and might even bring a few tears.

As I read about Susan’s family Christmas, so many memories of our family Christmas celebrations in the late 1950s and early 1960s danced through my heart! I’m sure my parents will enjoy this little gem of a book, too. The past few days, I’ve been sharing some of my favorite family Christmas memories with my mom and dad…

Susan shared her memories of looking at Christmas decorations in their California neighborhood in 1956.

Our family loved to visit my Aunt Judy and Uncle Jimmy during the holidays. Their Chicago neighborhood was a Candy Cane Lane, too! I have such warm memories of bundling up for an after-dinner walk down their block on Christmas Eve. One house had a large glass case with a life-sized Santa Claus playing an organ! Christmas music drifted down the block as we walked and admired the twinkling lights and decorations at each house. It was a Winter wonderland! After our walk, we would sit in my aunt’s fancy living room (Do you remember plastic slipcovered furniture?), sipping Christmas punch (while trying not to spill it), and singing Christmas carols while Aunt Judy played the organ.

Susan shared her joy as her grandma arrived for the holidays!

Our special tradition was always to celebrate Christmas Eve with my dad’s side of the family. Each year, we would gather at a different home for a magical Christmas Eve celebration! Several years, we chose to celebrate a different country each Christmas Eve. One year, we had an old English Christmas, another year, we celebrated a French Christmas, and so on. I will always remember my Aunt Gilda (a wonderful artist, teacher, and world traveler) illustrating the invitations as I carefully helped her color them. We would tuck a special recipe into each invitation, so that each family could bring a special dish from the country we were celebrating.

We always celebrated Christmas Day with my mom’s side of the family. After we opened our stockings and our presents from Santa early on Christmas morning, we couldn’t wait for my grandma, aunts and uncle to arrive from the countryside. Their car was filled with big surprises for the entire family. My collection of dolls seemed to grow every December! Each year, there was someone new to love and care for ~ Tiny Tears, Chatty Cathy, Poor Pitiful Pearl, Barbie, Ken, Skipper, and of course, a Dawn doll, too. (Did you play with any of the same dolls?) My mom always made a delicious, traditional Christmas dinner. We couldn’t wait for her amazing Christmas cookies to appear on Christmas Day! She had been baking cookies for weeks and hiding them so that they would last until Christmas Day. (Shhh! I might have discovered Mom’s secret hiding place for cookies!) 😉

Susan’s sweet illustration of her grandma’s car brought back a flood of happy memories, too! We had the very same 1955 green Buick! We loved driving out to the countryside every other weekend in that car to vacation at my grandparents’ home along the Fox River. In the days before expressways, it was a very long ride for my younger brothers and me! Sometimes, we had to draw that ‘invisible line’ dividing the backseat to keep us all happy. Most of the time, however, we were content playing Auto Bingo, as we searched for cows and horses along the way.  Our biggest adventure with our old green Buick was our drive from Illinois all the way to California to visit relatives in 1960. Since our car didn’t have air conditioning, my dad bought a special air cooler to hang on the window for that five day drive out west. Along the way, we made frequent stops to fill the air cooler with bottles of water. (Do you remember air coolers on cars?)

Christmas ‘magic’ always fills me with childlike wonder!

Home for Christmas truly is the little ‘extra’ Christmas we dream of in 2020. As you take delight in Susan’s Christmas memories, you will savor so many memories of your own Christmas celebrations! What a gift to us all, dear Susan! Heartfelt thanks for stirring so many precious memories of togetherness to help us through this holiday season! ♥♥

Of course, Susan wasn’t able to come visit us all this year in celebration of her newest book. So, she planned several virtual gatherings of Girlfriends over the past few months. Her gatherings benefited a local senior center and several small, independent bookstores.

Visiting Beatrix Potter’s home was a dream-come-true for Susan!

In August, Susan invited her readers into her cozy kitchen, via Zoom, to share a slide show and some of her favorite memories from their trip through the English countryside that inspired A Fine Romance. What a delightful afternoon of togetherness!

In September, just as our copies of Home for Christmas arrived in our mailboxes, Susan gathered with us, via Zoom, to share some of her favorite family memories of Christmas 1956. Susan was in her kitchen and I sipped tea in our dining room, with a special feeling of togetherness.

Yesterday afternoon, 1,034 Girlfriends gathered with Susan Branch for a final gathering of kindred spirits this year.  It felt like a reunion as we chatted, via Crowdcast, while we waited for Susan. There were so many friends greeting one another from near and far! From her charming kitchen, the ‘heart of her home,’ Susan answered our questions, shared her dreams, and told us about the books she is currently writing and illustrating.  We are looking forward to her book of beautifully, illustrated quotations! (Just my cup of tea!) Susan is releasing the first chapter of her upcoming book, Enchanted. This very special book is an illustrated diary of Susan and Joe’s four-month adventure in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. (Can’t wait to read about their travels in Ireland!)

Huge thanks, Susan and Joe, for inviting us all into your home so many times this year! It’s always a very special treat to spend time with you. You inspire us and warm our hearts every time, Susan. Sending big air hugs! ♥♥

Heartfelt thanks for visiting with us today, sweet friends!

I look forward to gathering here again very soon.

We all need a little extra togetherness right now…

Be safe! Stay healthy!

Warmest hugs,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Please let us know if you have ever attended one of Susan’s gatherings!

P.P.S.  If you type ‘Susan Branch’ into the search bar in the blog Archives, you will find many posts about Susan. 🙂

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Spaces…

Hi Friends!

It’s such a tender moment in time as I sit at my keyboard on Thanksgiving morning 2020. For the first time ever, our family will be celebrating this special day Together-Apart. We have chosen to stay physically distant now so that when we gather again, no one is missing…

My sweet husband and I are enjoying Thanksgiving with just the two of us for the very first time. It will be a poignant, quieter, reflective kind of celebration. We are intentionally blending some of our favorite holiday traditions with some new, non-traditional plans. Who knows? Today may be the beginning of some new Thanksgiving traditions!

As the cranberries simmered last night, I lovingly paged through Susan Branch’s Autumn book, savoring the memories of all of our family favorites. Countless times through the years, my brothers would say, “This is really delicious. Is it a Susan Branch recipe?” 🙂

As I set our Thanksgiving table for two, I intentionally chose different linens, place settings, and candles. Making a few new traditions will make our longtime family traditions feel even sweeter when we can gather safely again.

Later today, we will gather via Skype for pumpkin pie and favorite family stories. This is an old, family tradition that made each Thanksgiving special while our parents lived in the Arizona sunshine. Virtual gatherings continue to warm our hearts, even though our parents now live in a beautiful, senior community just twelve miles away! The blessings of technology are sure to be a part of so many family gatherings across America today!

Thanksgiving isn’t just one day for me though, it’s my way of living every single day! The Gratitude pages in my bullet journal are filled with the many blessings of 2020 for our family. It has been a truly difficult time for us. Yet, so many of our blessings are the doctors and nurses who have helped us during this very challenging year.

I am especially grateful for the doctors and nurses that have taken such wonderful care of me over the past eight months. Over time, my ophthalmologists, neuro-ophthalmologists, my primary care physician, and many technicians helped and advised me after sudden double vision and a loss of depth perception made every minute of daily living quite a challenge for me. Two weeks ago, my wonderful surgeon performed eye muscle surgery and eye muscle adjustments that seem to have solved my vision problems for the moment. 🙂  As I rest and heal from surgery, I am savoring the many blessings of good health! I am really looking forward to driving again after so many l-o-n-g months!

One of my special blessings happened last weekend when we visited the beautiful, grounds of the Theosophical Society. Walking meditation on the spiral labyrinth has always felt very meaningful to me. When we attempted to walk the labyrinth in October, I couldn’t even walk the path. My double vision caused the stepping stones to jump all around me, without a visible path to follow. My sweet husband had to lead me out of the labyrinth… heartbroken.

Last weekend, it felt so easy to follow the stepping stones! With each step, I counted my many blessings for the past several months. I can’t wait to share the happy news with my eye surgeon at my next checkup! For me, it was the ultimate eye test… and a perfect, little outing on a sunny, Autumn day! 🙂 I will always treasure that small moment that felt like such a huge milestone!

During life’s most challenging times, there are always things to be thankful for. Sometimes, we have to look really hard to find the blessings, both large and small. I am so grateful for all of the front line healthcare heroes, the dedicated teachers, the essential workers in the food stores, the hardworking volunteers at food pantries, the mail carriers and delivery workers, friends and neighbors who offer a helping hand, and the artists who continue to inspire me.

 

My friends, YOU are definitely some of favorite blessings!  Thank you for taking the time to visit and read older posts from the blog archives. Most of all, thank you for joining in the conversation with all of your thoughtful comments. Your comments are my very favorite part of this blog! You teach me and inspire me every time you share your thoughts.

Although we must patiently be physically distant for a while longer, kindred spirits can stay socially connected in so many ways. I have been writing lots of letters over the past week. (So many friends wrote back right away!:) ) It was such a joy to hear all of their family news.

I will try very hard to write more regularly here in the coming weeks. I’m looking forward to visiting all of my special blogging friends, too. It feels like blogging is such an important way to stay connected during this moment in time. We need one another more than ever right now!

Today we remember all of the precious lives lost due to Covid as we worry what may happen next. We think of the terrible economic challenges facing so many families and businesses. We look for ways to unite and work together to solve our many problems. We wait for the vaccines to be ready. I remain hopeful.

The spaces in our togetherness often allow us to grow in new ways, take actions toward change, offer us time to create, and to just pause… breathe… and count our many blessings.

Please stay safe and healthy, my friends!!

Warmest Thanksgiving blessings!

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

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Changes in the Air…

Hi Friends!

You have often been on my mind in the past few weeks. I hope you are all safe and feeling healthy!

Happy Autumn! In the Midwest, the change of seasons has been a bit of a roller coaster ride throughout October. I changed from my winter jacket to a t-shirt and back to my winter jacket from day to day as I worked in the yard and finished up an outdoor painting project. I’m delighted to report that my huge project to ‘right-size’ three garden beds surrounding our front porch is finally finished! (I still feel a few aches and pains from all the weeks of digging.) Now the garden will be so much easier to care for during this busy time in life. In the Springtime, after more front porch restoration, I will plant a few favorite, old-fashioned flowering shrubs in the new, smaller garden beds. Can’t wait to make this garden dream a reality! 🙂

♫ From the cast of Hamilton ♫

 

It’s so encouraging to hear that, as of today, over 85 million Americans have already cast their ballots! Did you change your method of voting this year or will you vote on Election Day?

Due to Covid, rather than vote in person this year, we decided to vote by mail for the very first time. On the first weekend of October, we drove out west to our County Election Commission to place our ballots into a special drop box. It felt heartwarming to see a steady stream of cars dropping off their ballots a whole month before Election Day. (We were also able to drop off my parents’ ballots. They had signed the affidavit on their envelopes giving us permission to carry their ballots to the drop box.)  BallotTrax alerted us that our ballots were accepted and processed two days later. So easy… and never more important!

From early May through early November, if you happen to drive past our little bungalow, you will see our flag flying from our front porch (weather permitting). This has been my tradition for the past thirty-three years. It is not a political statement of any kind. Instead it is a symbol of my love for my country and my hopes to help make it better for everyone. Throughout my entire life, I have strived to help our country in so many small ways.

During the past four years, however, it has been necessary to show up for my country in more visible ways. “Enough is enough” were the words we chanted at a nearby Islamic Center rally to support our immigrant families. “Enough is enough” were the words we chanted as I stood with the high school students to support their demands to end gun violence in America. We sang “Silent Night” and chanted “This is what democracy looks like” on a frigid December night rally in the park for impeachment. This year, it has been necessary to raise my voice as an ally in support of racial justice for all BIPOC Americans. There is so much work to do!! I truly hope that change is in the air…

From Election Day forward, I pray for patience and peace as we all await the 2020 election results. It’s sure to take longer to count every vote this year. Our future depends upon all of us finding ways to work together. I pray for much more kindness, especially toward those who voted differently than you. History has its eyes on us!

This Autumn, we have been savoring the quiet, healing of nature’s beauty on our walks.

Watching the season change from week to week brings a sense of normalcy during such tumultuous times.

Change can bring new growth and new possibilities!

For the past few months, I have been really enjoying the chance to follow along on You Tube as the Wander Women thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail.  It’s a truly uplifting journey along a rugged trail through such beautiful parts of America watching the seasons change! The Wander Women are three retirees, Kristy, Annette, and Lynn who just love to hike, backpack, and explore. They began this hike on a snowy June day in Wyoming. Along the way, they have encountered heat, cold, long stretches with scarce drinking water, dangerous river crossings, huge elevation changes… and the most beautiful scenery along the Continental Divide Trail! It’s so encouraging to see the kindness of strangers they meet along the way. The landscape has changed as they hike about twenty miles each day. Every five or six days, they stop in a small town to resupply and Kristy uploads a weekly video of their adventure. So far, Kristy and Annette have hiked over 2,000 miles since June. They are currently hiking through New Mexico and have less than 700 miles to complete their CDT thru-hike. I so admire their endurance and positive attitudes and am so grateful for the chance to follow along on their journey!

Take a peek at this week’s Wander Women video (Episode 22). If you enjoy it, follow along! It’s the perfect antidote to all of the news and is sure to lift your spirits!

We have already had two days of snow flurries this week. So early! This weekend we will have a leaf-raking party (just a party of two!). Our snow shovels are ready. Change is in the air…

Stay safe and healthy, sweet friends!

Sending big air hugs from my heart to yours,

♡ Dawn

Turning Purple…

Hi Friends!

We all have so much on our hearts these days. I hope that you are safe and healthy in your corner of the globe. News reports of the devastating wildfires out west and the aftermath of Hurricane Sally along the Gulf Coast seem unimaginable. Sending renewed strength and hope to all those affected. Know that you are in our thoughts…

Here in Illinois, the sidewalks, trails, and tracks are turning purple all month long! We are honoring 2020 World Alzheimer’s Day (September 21st) in whole new way. Instead of huge Walks to End Alzheimer’s, families, friends, and small groups are walking in their own communities for this very important event.

Our family was grateful for the efforts of Team Spectrum in today’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s!

Our Saturday was off to a very chilly start. The sun quickly warmed our hands and hearts as we looked forward to this meaningful day. Our first stop was a nice visit with my parents this morning. My mom and dad are both being very brave as they strive to live their best lives throughout this pandemic. What powerful lessons in resilience they are teaching us all!

The heartbreak of a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease has been extra challenging during the time of Covid-19.  Wearing masks conceals important facial cues, like friendly smiles. So, we try extra hard to smile with our eyes! Spending more time inside at home can be frustrating when a loved one with cognitive decline feels the need to walk around more and more. We are so grateful for the pretty indoor areas where my parents can stretch their legs and chat with their neighbors. On warm, sunny afternoons, they enjoy listening to music and watching the birds from their balcony, overlooking a beautiful, wooded area. “Elbow Hugs and Kisses” just aren’t as good as the real things, so we laugh each time we do these silly actions! Although a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease may not remember that we came to visit, each time they glance at a fresh picked bouquet from my garden they will know just how much they are loved!

This afternoon, my husband and I enjoyed our very own Walk to End Alzheimer’s in a pretty little park. We were the only ones there! 🙂 As we followed the trail passing a prairie area and a peaceful pond, we shared our hearts and so many family memories. In the shade of the tall oak trees, our feet crunched over fallen acorns with each step. We noticed the scampering squirrels and a black swallowtail warming its wings in the afternoon sun.

It wasn’t long until a family of swans joined our Walk to End Alzheimer’s. 🙂

The colorful flowers on our t-shirts represent the reasons that people fight to end Alzheimer’s.

Blue = I’m living with the disease.

Yellow = I’m supporting/caring for a loved one with the disease.

Purple = I have lost a loved one to the disease.

Orange = I support the cause,

a world without Alzheimer’s.”

Although we are all walking in our own communities this year to be safe from the Corona virus, we are all sharing the same hearts. Just knowing that so many others are intentionally walking to fight for a cure, makes me feel less alone. It’s proof that we are all striving for the same thing. We are all in this together!

The moment we returned home, 

I went online to make my donation to the Alzheimer’s Association.

It always feels so empowering to help make a difference!

♡♡♡

If you are able, I encourage you to help us find a cure

by making a donation, too!

Just click here.

Click here to donate to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Alzheimer’s Association is a vital resource for those suffering with this heart-wrenching disease, their families, and their caregivers. They are leading the fight against this disease! They offer so many valuable online seminars. The ALZ Helpline (800-272-3900) offers live support 24/7 from caring professionals to answer questions and concerns. Their helpful webinars present the latest research and extremely helpful information for caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association funds vital research and clinical trials in search of a cure. The research studies presented at the 2020 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference are very interesting and quite promising! I am truly grateful for the work of the Alzheimer’s Association and the difference they are making for so many families, just like mine.

Click here to read last year’s post, “Sharing My Heart.”

Although my blog only turns purple once each year, my family is living with this disease each and every day. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is so much more than a fundraising event. During this special time, we honor all those who are impacted by this heartbreaking disease, their loved ones and care partners, and those who fight for a world without Alzheimer’s and other dementia.

White flowers = I feel hopeful that we will find a cure.

With all my heart, I HOPE that one day,

in my lifetime,

we will find a cure and see the first person to survive this disease.

The end of Alzheimer’s starts with me! ♥

The reason is LOVE.

With hope,

Dawn

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Chatting By the Garden Gate ~ August

Hi Friends!

Hope that you and your families are safe and healthy! Our thoughts are with everyone currently experiencing the wild forces of nature, in the midst of a pandemic. How are you doing? ♥ Please let us know…

The Farmers’ Almanac predicted that our 2020 growing season would be one of “drizzle and sizzle” throughout Northern Illinois. So true! During May, we had a record-breaking 9.52 inches of rain in our area. (Our Spring rain totals also broke records in 2018 and 2019.) Our perennials were taller than ever with an abundance of blossoms. During June and July, temperatures were above normal many, many days.

Most recently, the Midwest experienced a derecho, a widespread, long lasting, straight-line windstorm that caused tornadoes, heavy rains, and hurricane-force winds. Mid-afternoon on July 10th, as we were bringing inside anything that could be blown away, our tornado sirens sounded. We retreated to the basement for safety as 95 mph winds blew through our area. Thirteen tornadoes were sighted in the greater Chicago area. More than 800,000 homes were without power. Our neighborhood lost power for four days as the power company worked to remove fallen trees from the electric wires. Thankfully, everyone was safe and neighbors helped neighbors. We were so grateful for power companies from across the country who sent crews to help restore our power. Just down the street, we saw a power company truck from Alabama helping to replace the electric wires. It has been a challenging summer for so many!

Let’s stroll through the garden as we chat today! 🙂

These old-fashioned Phlox have bloomed in my cottage garden for over 33 years! I have moved them from bed to bed several times. They seem very happy near the arbor in my Friendship Garden bed.

 

Phlox blossoms add a pop of color to our garden every August. The pollinators just love them!

 

Transplanting Phlox from place to place in my garden always feels like ‘watercoloring’ with real flowers. These closeups inspire me to mix watercolors on my palette and paint Phlox blossoms one day. 🙂

It’s so hard to believe that August is winding down already. During our many months of staying at home, it feels like the days are long… yet the months seem to fly by quickly. Noticing the perennials in bloom helps me keep track of each month. My garden palette slowly changed from the bright, orange Daylilies of late June and early July (seen in the top photo) to paler shades of the ‘Stella d’Oro’ Reblooming Daylilies.

‘Stella D’Oro’ Daylilies make wonderful cut flowers. Although each blossom lasts only one day, there are several large buds on each stem.

 

The ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossoms turned from bright white to the palest shade of green as they began to dry on the plants. I love this shade! Now they are changing to a darker shade of green. It’s time to cut them to decorate some grapevine wreaths!

 

My perennial garden is bathed in bright, sunny blossoms

of Rudbeckia and Black-eyed Susans every August.

The Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ are much taller than me! I have to wait in line with the pollinators when I cut blossoms to fill vases. A nearby bee bath keeps the pollinators happy.

 

A bee bath in the Friendship Garden encourages the pollinators to stay longer in our garden. The Garden Stones encourage me to be mindful of my special ‘word’ for each year while I savor time in the garden!

 

 

Black-eyed Susans and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ line the walkway to our front porch. Such a lovely combination of sunny yellow and pale purple! This week’s garden bouquet for my mom featured Black-eyed Susans and delicate, purple stems of Hosta blossoms. Such a happy combination! ♥

 

Very sadly, this summer’s garden view was obstructed by huge, yellow construction equipment parked in front of our house nightly. A huge city project dug up a nearby street to bury new water main pipes. The project lasted from early May through just last week. Oh my! Our little home was shaking as huge equipment pounded the pavement day after day. (My antique teacups were rattling until I packed them away for safety!) We kept our windows closed as clouds of construction dust drifted across the garden each day. I often wore a dust mask in the garden and while I cut the grass each week. However, many days it was just healthier to stay inside! So many of our outdoor projects had to be put on hold.

The past few weeks, though, I have been busy as a bee working on this summer’s plan to ‘right-size’ the three perennial beds along our front porch. Being a sentimental gardener, I have spent many hours digging… while reminiscing about all of the changes I have made to the front porch beds over the years.

When I became a homeowner, 33 summers ago, there were two narrow beds with tall hedges and a tidy border of annuals. The bed on the south side of our front porch had a tall pine tree, a ground cover of Bishop’s Weed, and pale, pink shrub Roses. My parents helped me to cut down the Pine tree that was much too close to the front porch. With more sunshine and room to grow, the aggressive Bishop’s Weed and shrub Roses thrived. That began my annual challenge to dig out the Roses and the quick-spreading ground cover.

I planted annuals in my first two years as a gardener… until I discovered the ‘magic’ of perennials!! 🙂 Each summer, I cut away just a few inches of grass so that I could add a new plant to my front porch gardens. Little-by-little, the garden beds slowly expanded over the years. More room for perennials… and more space for the roots of the Roses and ground cover to twist and twine beneath the soil.

It was such fun to make changes to the sunny bed to the south of the front porch over the years! I planted a lovely white Lilac tree where the Pine had been. Within two years, the underground root systems of the Roses and ground cover choked out the Lilac. For the next few years, beautiful Hollyhocks blossomed there. Later I planted a mature, purple Aster that attracted so many butterflies. However, the Bishop’s Weed and Roses would twist and wind their way throughout the perennial bed. Every two weeks, I spent time digging them out to no avail. Enough!  I decided to add a thick layer of wood chips surrounding the perennials several years ago. That would surely solve the problem!

I just happened to have an antique wheelbarrow tucked in the corner of the garage. So, I rolled it onto the wood chips and filled the wheelbarrow with containers of bright annuals. A few years later, I tucked the wheelbarrow back into the garage and placed an antique picket fence gate on the wood chips. It was fun to hang different folk art pieces on the picket fence throughout the year. Alas, nothing seemed to solve the ‘root’ of my problem…

As I recalled the evolution of this special part of the garden, my strongest memory was all of the weeding as I battled the roots of the shrub Roses and rhysomes of the Bishop’s Weed. My heart told me that now is the season of life to ‘right-size’ the front porch perennial beds. Taking advantage of the shade early each morning, I can still be found digging down deeply into the soil to remove those aggressive roots one-by-one.

Inspired by author Kerry Ann Mendez, I often repeat her words of encouragement: “These are not children or pets.” I have been composting the perennials as I remove them. I certainly don’t want to share those ‘problem roots’ with friends and neighbors. I strategically worked my way through the bed allowing each plant to bloom one last time.

The south side of the front porch is almost empty now. My favorites, the Daisies and ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea, will be the last perennials to dig up in this bed. A bittersweet task!  (Repeat after me… “These are not children or pets.” 😉 )

Newly planted grass seed has already grown a few inches tall in this space now. It ‘sparks joy’ each morning as I look for rainbows in the water spray while I sprinkle my new, grassy, ‘right-size’ garden bed. 🙂

I would LOVE some tried and true garden advice ~

What kind of weed barrier do you recommend I use in the area right along the front porch lattice work? I’m planning to cover the weed barrier (the length of the porch, approximately 4 foot wide) with wood chips.

Shh! I have a ‘secret’ plan for that small area of wood chips! In our basement, there is a very heavy antique that would be so lovely sitting on the wood chips holding colorful, container plants. It would be just perfect in the garden of a retired second grade teacher! (We also have a very friendly, very strong, young neighbor who always offers to help us!) 🙂  Hmmm. Any guesses?  😉

I have been tending this little ‘garden plot’ on the Internet

for six years now.

Nurturing the friendships we have grown is so heartwarming.

Writing nourishes my creative soul.

YOU inspire me to keep growing and blooming!

♥♥♥

Thank you for joining me

for a very chatty, garden walk today!

 

Stay safe, sweet friends!

Be well.

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

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