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

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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

Gifts of Nature

Hi Friends!

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

I hugged a tree… two trees, in fact.

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

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

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

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

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

Just a few hours later, the heavy equipment arrived…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

last summer here. Such a treasured photo.💗)

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

a final gift from our towering pines!

A huge heart!

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

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

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

We cherish their lovely memories…

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

🌸 🌸 🌸

Wishing you many Springtime blessings!

Stay safe and healthy!

Warmest hugs,

💗 Dawn

Small Moments

Hi Friends!

Happy International Women’s Day! I’m so glad that YOU stopped to visit with us today. The nicest people, from across the globe, always seem to find their way here. Yesterday, we had visitors from the U.S., UK, Ireland, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, France, South Africa, Canada, and Brazil. It fills my heart with joy to know that you spend a few moments of your busy day in this little corner of the internet! Whether you are a longtime friend or this is your very first visit, I hope you feel ‘at home’ here.

I have been contemplating some small moments that I want to remember as the weeks pass. Today, in my Midwest garden, there are only a few small snowpiles remaining. In January, we had 22 inches (56cm) of snow. February brought us 22 more inches (56cm) of snow! Shoveling snow became my regular ‘workout’ for a few weeks. With a desire to play in all that snow, I couldn’t wait to build a snowman (actually, a snowlady!).  😉

Meet Rosemary, the snow gardener! 🙂 She was named for my favorite herb and enjoyed wearing my straw, garden hat over her dried Hydrangea tresses. Each time I peeked out the window, Rosie was smiling back at me! To her good fortune, an Arctic plunge kept temperatures below 0 degrees for days on end.

With several more inches of glittery snow, Mother Nature dressed Rosemary in a flowing wedding gown. We will always remember her nice, long visit and all of the joy she brought us!

Last week, I gratefully put away my warmest, woolen mittens. As the snow melted, I happily noticed a most welcome sign of Spring during my daily walk through the neighborhood. It definitely put a smile in my heart and a spring in my step!

It just amazes me how these delicate Snowdrops can withstand the weight of so much snow cover! In our garden, the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is showing its foliage. The Daffodils are already three inches tall. The buds on the Lilac, and Rhododendron are swelling. True signs that Spring is just around the corner!

The Magnolia buds have me dreaming my garden dreams as I wait. In fact, I have been thinking about mulch this week as I ponder a few changes to the garden. 😉

This is already my tenth year of choosing ‘One Little Word’ to guide me throughout the year. This year’s word  reminds me of the many ways to add S P A C E to my life. On the first page of my 2021 Self-Care bullet journal, my new word is surrounded by all of my previous ‘words.’ I continue to call upon all of these ‘words’ day after day!

As I continue to work through The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, I have been reflecting on Creative Space and the ways that I incorporate creative rituals, inspiration, nature, and sensory experiences into my little Paper Garden studio downstairs.

 

For my Artist Date last week, I added touches of Springtime to my Self-Care bullet journal. The dot grid pages are filling up with creative affirmations, studio rules, and my creativity contract. Little-by-little, step-by-step, I can feel tiny, meaningful changes happening in my creative soul. I always look forward to our Tuesday Creative Cluster gatherings, via Zoom. Creativity is such an important part of my healthy lifestyle!

This year’s valentine for my sweet husband used non-traditional colors for a more natural look.

I never remember to photograph the inside of my handmade cards before I write in them! (So, I used a few seashells to hide the personal words here. 🙂 ) My cards are always embellished on the inside as a special treat for the recipient.

Distress inks and more stamps and dies from The Greetery helped me to create a collection of winter sprigs.

It was such fun to fill a tiny, stoneware pitcher with winter berries and greens for my parents. It won’t be long until things start to ‘bloom’ in my Paper Garden studio. Springtime usually arrives a bit early there! 🙂

Last week, I was blessed with the BEST small moment of all! It truly felt like a Red-Letter Day!!

After weeks and weeks of searching unsuccessfully for a vaccine appointment, a wonderful, unexpected opportunity arose! Our suburb worked to provide vaccines for 970 Seniors (65+ years old). With support from the police and fire departments, city officials, several pharmacists, and many volunteers, they set up a one-day vaccine clinic to administer our first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Everything went so smoothly. We will all return in three weeks for our second dose of the vaccine!

As I headed home, my heart was overflowing with gratitude. My vaccine felt like a very big deal!! Each precious vial of ‘hope’ will help to lead us out of this pandemic if we all continue to do our part, by wearing masks, social distancing, and washing our hands! We cannot let our guard down yet… This week marks one whole year since we went on lockdown and began staying at home. Like so many of us, I long for the day that my whole family can gather together again!

I continue to be so very grateful for the diligent work of the scientists across the globe and those who volunteered in clinical trials, the dedicated doctors, nurses, and lab technicians (true unsung heroes), the first responders and the essential front-line workers whose personal sacrifices every day make a difference for us all.  I see you. I appreciate you. I honor you all!

Very often, the small moments take up the most room in our hearts!

♥ ♥ ♥

I’m thinking of you all

on this

International Women’s Day!

Stay safe and healthy!

With much hope,

♡ Dawn

P.S. Please let us know what small moments are bringing YOU hope right now. If this is your first visit, please say “Hi.”  We would love to meet you! 🙂

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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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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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