Simple, Quiet Beauty

Hi Friends!

Dark, storm clouds threatened overhead very early on the Summer Solstice as my husband packed up our car. (Meanwhile, I took just a moment to make our online donation to “The Longest Day” fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. It made my heart feel so good to help fund the care, support, and research so desperately needed in the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease.) Moments later, we drove off to spend “The Longest Day” and the next few days doing something we LOVE, while honoring special people we LOVE. It was a perfect way to celebrate our wedding anniversary! The reason was LOVEa whole lot of LOVE!

We set off in search of simple, quiet beauty, a bit of adventure, small town charm, and perhaps some antiquing, too! As we headed south, heavy rains accompanied us throughout our three-hour drive. Rain was also predicted for the next few days. We hoped for the best as we watched the skies.

Our destination was Amish Country in Central Illinois. Over the years, we have enjoyed visiting Amish areas in Indiana. It would be so interesting to learn more about the Amish people living in our home state. We thought you might like to come along…

This beautiful, quiet region is filled with Amish farms, picturesque small towns with brick-lined streets, quaint antique shops, fun places to eat, and the friendliest people ever. The towns of Arcola, Arthur, and Tuscola, just a few miles apart, welcomed us… and the rain stopped just moments after we arrived! 🙂

 

Amish families moved from Pennsylvania and Indiana to Central Illinois, beginning in 1865, in search of more affordable land and wide-open spaces. Today there are more than 5,500 Amish people living in this area surrounded by large corn and soybean fields, stretching as far as the eye can see.

The Amish people are a very close-knit community. They are hardworking farm families, who often run small, creative, home-based businesses. Roadside wooden signs welcome visitors to quilt shops, woodworking shops, herb shops, bakeries, and more in Amish homes. The Amish are very friendly and open to answering questions about their simple lifestyle.

Religion guides all aspects of Amish life. They have chosen to live a life that is separate from the world. The Amish believe in peace and nonviolence and do not pass judgement on outsiders. They don’t fully accept the modern conveniences that we take for granted. By choosing not to use electricity, they are able to avoid many of the temptations that would impact their family lives. The Amish people value simplicity over convenience and comfort.

In this area, typical Amish farms are approximately 80 acres. The average Illinois Amish family has six children. When a young, Amish couple gets married, they are usually gifted with a parcel of land to farm, from one of their fathers.

We frequently traveled the winding, country road between Arcola, through the tiny hamlet of Chesterville, to Arthur. It warmed my heart each time we passed road signs reminding drivers to be cautious of slow-moving buggies. The familiar ‘clip-clop’ of the horse and buggy feels like a gentle reminder to savor life at a slower pace.

Most of the country roads have wide shoulders that serve as buggy lanes. For safety, the Amish people use battery-powered lights on their buggies. We always used caution whenever following a buggy and slowly passed them with care so we didn’t frighten the horse. We also saw many Amish people riding bicycles on warm, Summer days. Although the Amish people don’t own cars, they do accept rides in other people’s vehicles when necessary.

Each Amish farmhouse we passed had a large tank to store gas or diesel fuel to power their generators. They use bottled gas to operate their water heaters, modern stoves, and refrigerators. Gas lanterns and oil lamps light their homes.

Telephones are not permitted in Amish homes. We noticed wooden phone booths at the end of some driveways, near the road, shared by neighbors for emergencies and business. Today some Amish people have cell phones that can also be used outside their homes.

Families play games, build puzzles, do schoolwork, and read together in the evenings. No musical instruments are played in the homes for that would be worldly. As with all farm families, it is an “early to bed, early to rise” lifestyle.

 

In this area, families are “House Amish.” They gather in homes to hold their Sunday church services. There are 22 church districts in the area surrounding Arthur. When Amish families gather together, they speak their first language, a German dialect.

Horse-power is so important on Amish farms. Farmers drive teams of 6-8 horses to farm their rich land. Their tractors have metal wheels without rubber tires. In recent years, available farmland has become both expensive and scarce in Central Illinois. So, many Amish farmers have also taken on a trade.

In the evenings, we noticed Amish buggies hitched in the parking lot of several businesses in towns. After the farm work is done for the day, some Amish people may supplement their income by working in town for a few hours.

In addition to large farm fields, Amish homes also have big vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Beachy’s Bulk Foods sells everything else that a family might need to prepare meals and preserve fruits and vegetables for the Winter season.

As we drove along the country roads, we noticed every clothesline was filled with plain, dark colored pants, shirts, and dresses. Amish women work hard using wringer washers to do their laundry.

Our rainy Spring in Illinois has been very welcome to our farmers. Instead of “Knee-high by the Fourth of July,” the cornstalks were already shoulder-high by the third week of June.

It was fascinating to learn about Amish wedding traditions. November is the most popular month for Amish weddings. During Spring, Summer, and Fall there is too much work and little time for wedding celebrations. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the the usual days for Amish weddings, since they are the least busy days during their week. An Amish wedding takes place in the bride’s home with a four-hour ceremony. There are no rings, flowers, photos, caterers, or kisses. Typically, more than two hundred guests are invited to celebrate the happy couple!

 

“Amish people are not backwards, nor ‘stuck in the past.’

They are constantly adjusting to the pressures of the world

and striving to maintain their belief and culture.”

“It is a very delicate balance between tradition and change”.

~ National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom

We enjoyed every moment of our visit to Amish Country. I have much more to share in future posts, including several ‘hidden gems’ in the area. One of our most cherished memories is the kindness of everyone we met along the way.

The motto of the town of Arthur (population 2,200) is “You are a stranger only once.” There is so much to discover in this patchwork quilt of quiet, simple beauty and we relish the chance to learn more. We are already planning our next visit!

Although we kept our rain gear close at hand, we felt so fortunate to have dry weather for our adventures. While we were away, my garden soaked up three more inches of rain. It was a delight to find the ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangeas in full bloom when we arrived home!

I enjoyed slower-paced days the following week

without turning my computer on! 🙂

Where do you find simple, quiet beauty?

Happy Independence Day to all of our American friends

as we celebrate family, friends, and freedom!

 

Make each day sparkle!

♡ Dawn

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“The Longest Day”

Hi Friends!

Our blog is going Purple today…

and the reason is LOVE.

It is my greatest hope that you will share

in “The Longest Day” on June 21st.

In the past year, Alzheimer’s Disease has touched my family and made an profound impact on all of our lives. In search of ways to help my family, I have dedicated much of my time and energy to learning all that I can about this heartbreaking disease.  The Alzheimer’s Association is helping me every step of the way…

 

My family is not alone.

The statistics are truly alarming….

By age 65+    1 in 9 people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

By age 85+    1 in 3 people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

More women are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s than men.

Although there are different types of dementia, 80% of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

No one has ever survived Alzheimer’s disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association is leading the fight against this disease. They offer valuable seminars at public libraries throughout our area. Their helpful webinars present the latest research and extremely helpful information for caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association Help Line (800-272-3900) offers live support 24/7 from caring professionals to answer questions and concerns. The Alzheimer’s Association funds vital research and clinical trials in search of a cure.

Siberian Iris with Birdbath

I have been able to take advantage of so many of these valuable resources during the past year. Attending caregiver support groups and connecting with friends, whose families have also been affected by this disease, has  helped me learn about the difficult journey that my family now faces. Most importantly, everything that I learn about the journey of Alzheimer’s disease, I have been able to share with my entire family. Although it is a truly heartbreaking disease, I am so grateful for the work of the Alzheimer’s Association and the difference they are making for so many families, like mine. 

   Please take just one minute to watch this video…

For people suffering with Alzheimer’s disease,

their families, and their caregivers,

each day filled with challenges

can feel very long.

Today I am sharing my heart with you

and raising awareness

of a wonderful way we can all help

in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease

with great LOVE…

On “The Longest Day” (June 21st), people across the globe

will do what they LOVE,

or what their loved ones affected by this disease LOVE to do.

Together, we will raise funds and awareness

for care and support of those affected,

while advancing ALZ research.

We are working toward the first survivor

of Alzheimer’s disease.

Last year, I spent “The Longest Day” in such a poignant, meaningful way. My entire day was devoted to activities that I LOVE. Early in the morning, I took a long, solo walk in nature along our beautiful Prairie. With each step, I knew that I was doing something very important. Next, I spent many hours tending my flower and herb gardens. All the while, my heart was honoring someone so dear to me. I spent the rest of the day downstairs in my little Paper Garden studio making cards filled with LOVE and sending them off to loved ones, far and near.

Although I was intentionally doing what I love most, my day felt very long. It made me think about just how long and difficult each day must feel to someone with Alzheimer’s disease facing so many challenges.

The most important thing that I did that day

was to make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association!

It felt so good!

This button is a link to donate to ALZ.org

 

 I am already looking forward to

“The Longest Day” 2018.

My husband will take a day off work on Thursday

so that we can participate in this important day together.

We will spend the entire day doing things we LOVE

to honor our loved ones.

However, the most important thing we will do

on “The Longest Day”

is to make our donation to the Alzheimer’s Association.

 

Breaking News! June 21, 2018  

Your Donation today will be matched by a very generous donor!

                                                 Your donation today will help twice as much!

It felt so good to make our donation early this morning! ♥♥

 

We can all make a difference by helping the Alzheimer’s Association in the fight to end this disease. Throughout the past year, I have been quietly fundraising and donating to the Alzheimer’s Association. Now it’s time to raise my voice… and ask for your help, too.

It feels very empowering to make donations to the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. It makes me very hopeful that one day, in my lifetime, we will find a cure and see the first person survive this disease.

The end of Alzheimer’s starts with me! ♥

The reason is LOVE.

With hope,

♡ Dawn

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Unexpected Joys!

Hi Friends!

The past few weeks, my heart has been filled with sweet memories of the beginnings of this quiet, little blog and some of the unexpected joys that it has brought into my life. It’s the perfect time to share the story of how Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes came to be! Enjoy a cup of tea as we reminisce and savor some photos from the blog archives…

Early in my ‘Renaissance’ (the ‘R’ word that I use for my Retirement), it was such a sweet treat to begin each day with an hour of visiting blogs. This morning ritual took me to faraway places and creative spaces, and introduced me to the most interesting people. As I got to know each blogger, it was always fun to join in the conversation by leaving a comment on each blog I visited. As time passed, I noticed that many of my favorite blogs were using WordPress as a blogging platform. Hmmmm… interesting!

One of my favorite, early morning stops was always Susan Branch’s blog. Susan has long been my favorite author and artist. The chance to soak up a bit of her inspiration and creativity was a perfect way to begin my days. The chance to leave Susan a comment and wait for her to reply was over-the-moon exciting. I had no idea how Susan wrote a blog, but it felt positively magical to me!

Just a few months later, I read that our wonderful public library was offering a WordPress workshop. 🙂 Always curious, I decided to find out just how this blog magic worked! Perhaps I could just create a private blog using WordPress. No one could see it but me! So, I chose a simple, old-fashioned theme (just like me). It reminded me of a scrapbook page, with its ribbon banner holding a title. The tiny flowers in the header reminded me of paper cuts that might embellish one of my handmade cards. All of the ‘working bits’ were tucked neatly away in a slide-out sidebar. Hmmmm… fascinating!

When I showed my sweet husband all of the magical things I had learned at the workshop, he wondered aloud what I might write about if I had a blog. Hmmmm… just out of curiosity, perhaps I could write a pretend post! No one would see it.

A lifelong letter writer, my very favorite things to write were always long letters to friends. So, I just sat down and wrote a letter to a friend and within a few hours I figured out how to insert the photos. Later that week, I met with the technology director at our library one evening. Cher looked over my pretend post and said it was ready to publish. Publish? I was truly just learning out of curiosity!

“I’m kind of shy. I could never have my own blog, Cher.”

“Let’s just click ‘Publish’ together…

and see what happens,” she said.

So, (very bravely) we did.

I arrived home five minutes later

only to discover that someone in New Zealand was reading my story!

At that very moment, I knew that blogging was truly magical.

An unexpected joy!

When I showed my husband, he suggested that we go to a nearby Quilt Show that weekend so that I could write about it on the blog. He wanted to go to a Quilt Show?? (*wink*) Soon, we began planning weekend ‘Blog Dates.” 🙂 An unexpected joy!

Still feeling shy, I decided not to tell my friends and family about the blog. I only confided in my dear friend, Cathy, who was enduring a very brave battle with ALS. I knew that the iPad attached to Cathy’s wheelchair allowed her to explore and experience the simple joys of life. Cathy began reading my posts and commented that they “felt like a walk in the park with a friend.” Happy tears! I discovered that a quiet, little blog could make a difference in someone’s day. An unexpected joy!

What fun it would be that very first summer as a blogger! I planned to stroll around my garden taking photos of my cottage perennial and herb beds. Oops! Suddenly, our quiet street was under construction and heavy, earth-moving equipment began digging up the entire street. Each night, they parked all of the equipment in front of our house. For many weeks, I would brave the dust to run out and take a quick photo in the early morning or late evening light. That summer, I learned the importance of close-up photography. An unexpected joy!

Spring Anenomes dance in the late May breeze.

Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes continually inspires me to keep learning! Over the years, out of curiosity, I attended many more workshops at our amazing library. I wanted to learn about basic photo editing, personal branding, intellectual property, watermarking my photos, close-up photography, and writing memoir. At the library, I connected with others interested in blogging. Webinars introduced me to SEO and taught me to be intentional as I created the ‘look’ and ‘feel’ of this little blog. There is still so much to learn! Currently, I am having fun exploring flat lay photography. Unexpected joys!

Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes often challenges me to be very brave! Now I find great joy in sharing personal stories celebrating the small moments that make life oh-so sweet. Sharing my ‘One Little Word’ each year keeps me accountable as I grow in so many new ways. Publishing photos of my handmade cards and hand-lettered journal pages was scary at first. I’m so grateful for all of the kindness and encouragement here. Unexpected joys!

Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes has truly enriched my life! From the very beginning, blogging has felt just like being pen pals with the world. I am genuinely humbled that people from across the globe stop here to read my quiet stories. It has been such a blessing to meet so many delightful kindred spirits and new friends who gather here and join in our conversation. The seeds of many strong friendships have grown here over the years! It feels magical each time I meet a friend in person that I have known through blogging. I look forward to nurturing our friendships in the years to come! Unexpected joys!

A ‘heartstrings’ moment of serendipity happened two years ago at a Tea Party and booksigning with Susan Branch. (Remember that Susan was my inspiration as I tiptoed into the world of blogging. Hope you will take time to visit her blog. It’s truly enchanting!) This was the third time Susan and I had met and we always had something fun to talk about together. We had another lovely chance to talk together before Tea was served. Afterwards, a long line of Girlfriends chatted together, making new friends as we excitedly waited for Susan to sign our books.

I was absolutely stunned when Susan completely surprised me! Her kind words about Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes truly touched my heart. She spoke of this delightful gathering place, a lovely community of kindred spirits, and told me that she quietly visits my blog to read my stories.

Oh, my goodness!! Be still my heart! 

A complete circle of love and kindness… and a most unexpected joy!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This month Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes

is celebrating its fourth birthday!

I can hardly wait to see what unexpected joys

it will bring in the coming years!

Thank you, dear friends,

for being a very special part of our celebration!! ♥ ♥

 

Scatter joy each day!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  I know that two of our dear blog friends are thinking about beginning blogs of their own. Let’s encourage them! One never knows what unexpected joys are waiting just around the corner! Hope you will share the magic of blogging in your comments! Inspiration is contagious…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing… Day by Day!

Hi Friends!

Things are growing and changing here slowly… day by day.

My Midwest perennial and herb gardens are definitely growing and changing, but that’s not the only place I’m noticing new growth. It’s happening within me, as well!

Inspired by all of the changes in my garden over the past two years, and the lessons learned and documented in my Garden Joys bullet journal, I knew that I wanted to create a very special, very personal Self Care bullet journal for 2018.

The new year offered a blank slate filled with endless possibilities and opportunities to grow day by day. So, I chose a beautiful,  Rhodia dot grid journal for this time of new growth. The luscious, ivory, brushed vellum paper, made in France by Clairefontaine, called to both my hand and heart. These creamy, blank pages must be filled with ink, color, and most importantly… with intention!

In late December, I anticipated that something very important was just about to begin. My blank journal would need a dedicated place for writing and reflecting upon all that I would learn. So, I chose a simple, pine, IKEA desk and my sweet husband spent hours assembling it, with so much love and care.  Now every day of the year begins and ends with those luscious pages and a few simple art supplies. The time I spend with my Self Care journal always feels like a special gift ~ to me, from me!

My Self Care bullet journal is the perfect place to set new healthy goals and quietly document my daily progress. Each morning, I track my hours of restful sleep and also those restless hours filled with worry. It’s interesting to see my sleep patterns throughout the month. I have grown very mindful of going to bed on time because I know that I will have to graph it in my journal in ink.  (*wink*) 

It’s truly heartwarming to fill my Gratitude page with the small blessings that add joy to each day.  I find myself looking for moments of gratitude all day long. By the end of each month, this page is overflowing with blessings and I always wish I had more space to write. I think my Gratitude page is actually the most important page for Self Care each month!

I have also been tracking all of my ‘workouts’ throughout each month. Whenever I workout, I document how many minutes I spend: shoveling snow, practicing Yoga, doing  a Zumba workout, walking, mowing the lawn, or gardening. My activities change throughout the seasons. It’s so wonderful to be more active outside now that Springtime has finally arrived here!

I’m keeping track of how much water I drink each day in my “Hydrate Your Soul” tracker. I have grown more mindful of refilling my water bottle multiple times each day while attempting to reach my daily goal!

My Fitbit counts my steps and I graph them daily. Just knowing that I must record my step count in ink helps me to think about moving more throughout each day. Bundling up for Winter walks felt energizing because I had to walk quickly! We have been ‘Walkin’ on Sunshine’ lately during our evening walks together.  Sunny morning walks in the park always lift my spirits. The easiest walks of all are long, chatty walks with friends. The miles fly by as we catch up on one another’s lives! I’m just delighted that nice walking weather is finally here!

It has been very interesting to document how I spend my days! By the end of the month, I can actually see how much time I have spent in my little Paper Garden studio, writing Morning Pages, going on Artist Dates, writing letters, and blogging. It is creative time that truly nourishes my heart and soul. So, when I notice that one of my important activities is not a part of my days, I strive to make a change. This has been such a gift for my creative spirit!

From the beginning, I made a conscious decision not to include the minutiae of daily tasks in my Self Care journal. During my ‘Renaissance’ (the ‘R’ word that I use for Retirement),  I truly relish the freedom of my days. So, I use a beautiful Lang Engagement Planner for the events and tasks that must be done each day. I either ‘X’ each task as ‘completed’ or migrate it to another day.   I’ve always enjoyed being ‘busy.’ However, now I can feel the difference between just being busy and being productive. What a great feeling!

Perhaps it’s our wild Springtime weather, but it’s so hard to believe that May is almost here!  I’ve been peeking into the birdhouses in our garden waiting for robins or wrens to move in. So, it was such fun to create new spreads with birdhouse doodles in my Self Care journal. I just love adding inspirational quotes on every page!

It will be interesting to watch my healthy habits continue to grow, step by step, throughout May.

This month, I added a new chart to help me stay mindful of my most important healthy goals. Looking down the column each day will remind me of my intentions to do those things that make me both healthy and happy!

Have you noticed that I never include any eating habits in my journal? I feel extremely content using the Weight Watchers app to track all of my meals. It’s a very user-friendly, effective tool to help me maintain my healthy weight. I still count Smart Points every single day and attend my Weight Watchers meeting every week. Staying at my healthy weight for the past six months has been such an important part of my Self Care!

If you are interested, plenty of wonderful inspiration for bullet journaling can be found on You Tube. Kara Benz @ Boho Berry motivated me to give bullet journaling a try. Kara just created a beautiful digital planner (available on May 1st) for those who might prefer a more portable way to bullet journal. (Very interesting, but I think I will always prefer luscious paper and ink!) I also find great bullet journaling inspiration from Amanda Rach Lee.  Helen Colebrook creates lovely journals, too.

I’m so curious…

Do you keep a journal of any kind?

How do you bring Self Care into each day?

Hope you will share with us!

♥♥♥

Thanks so much for visiting today!

 

Sending warm, sunny hugs!

♡ Dawn

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Taking Steps…

Hi Friends!

It’s been a very long time since I last walked to school. This late winter morning, for the first time since the early 1970s, I bundled up in layers and headed out the door. I planned this walk several weeks ago and a windchill of 2o degrees would not deter my walk on this historic morning. I was taking important steps

The sun shone brightly as I stepped carefully over the icy patches on the sidewalks, detouring onto the snowy grass from time to time. It felt important, as though something BIG was about to happen! As I walked, I met up with friendly teenagers hurrying to their classes. I’m sure that they felt it, too. As I walked with one high school student, I told her that I was coming to school to ‘stand’ with all of the students and teachers… and she smiled and thanked me. Although I retired from teaching six years ago, there is still very important work to be done!

Of course, I was early… I’m always early! (“Anticipate the bell.” 🙂 “Early is on time, on time is late!” 🙂 ) These words still make me smile warmly as I reflect back upon my thirty-five happy years of teaching young children. ♥ As I walked around the quiet neighborhood surrounding our local high school, my thoughts turned to my own school days, both as a student and a teacher. So much has changed over the years…

Today was the National School Walkout as students, young and old, across America raised their collective voices against the ongoing crisis of gun violence in our society. Today marks the heartbreaking one-month anniversary of the massacre of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. Massive student protests spread across our land beginning at 10:00 in each time zone. Organizers planned the National School Walkout to highlight “Congress’ inaction against the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.” I knew that I must stand with our students and their teachers on this day.

At 10:00, the school doors opened and hundreds of students walked out and assembled in front of their high school. They had planned ahead and many wore red and black. Many students carried hand-lettered signs. Their speeches lasted for 17 minutes, in remembrance of the 17 lives taken by gun violence in Florida. As I listened from a distance, my eyes filled with tears for all of the school children and their teachers across our nation who face fears for their safety in their classrooms. My heart swelled with pride for all of the young Americans who are taking steps to solve our national epidemic and to create a brighter future.

In between the speeches, there was much chanting,

individual voices of young men and women,

tomorrow’s leaders,

united to send a strong message to our lawmakers and leaders.

♦♦♦

Listen to their words…

“Enough is enough!”

♢♢♢

“Congress is complacent.”

♢♢♢

“We are the future voters.”

♢♢♢

“We are the change!”

♢♢♢

“Thoughts and prayers are NOT enough!”

♢♢♢

Between their powerful chants, there were loud reminders to pick up contact information for our lawmakers, write letters, make phone calls, and send texts. Eighteen-year-olds were reminded to vote in our upcoming elections. After 17 minutes, the young protestors respectfully filed back through the school doors and went on with their studies. It was most definitely a powerful, teachable moment… one they are certain to carry with them into adulthood.

The gathering of community members who came to ‘stand’ with our high school students clapped with pride as we listened to their voices. Parents tried to explain to their preschoolers what the ‘big kids’ were doing today. I met other retired teachers who also came to show support. High school alumni shared their pride, as well. The tv news crew packed away their huge camera as the protest came to an end.

It feels like this is only a beginning for our nation! The March for Our Lives rally for school safety, on March 24th, is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of marchers to our nation’s capital.

Another round of National School Walkouts is planned for April 20th, on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado.

Malala’s words give me much hope…

“One child, one teacher,

one book, one pen can change the world.”

 

I’ll keep taking steps as long as necessary.

Be the change!

♡ Dawn

 

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Cold Hands, Warm Hearts!

Hi Friends!

“Snow makes whiteness where it falls,

The bushes look like popcorn balls.

Snow-covered evergreens

The places where I always play,

Snowy scallops on the white picket fence

Look like somewhere else today!”

(Credit:”First Snow” by Mary Louise Allen)

My ‘History Garden’ casts shadows in winter.

We woke up on Monday to blue skies and sunshine… finally! Early in the morning, I bundled up and went for a long-awaited walk through my Winter garden. Very slowly, I trudged through the deep, glittery snow, several inches higher than my warm boots.

We had measurable snowfall every day for nine consecutive days, from February 3rd through the 11th. It truly looked like we were living in a snow globe! 🙂  Each day as I peeked through our lace curtains, while sipping tea from a favorite antique teacup, the snowflakes danced over my garden like Winter’s butterflies. Many times, I reached into my special ‘Basket of Sunshine’ for an extra dose of coziness during our long stretch of snowy days.

Glittery snowflakes falling in a shaker card

Shoveling snow became my daily ‘workouts,’ often shoveling two or three times a day. Traditionally, my husband prefers the ease of a snowblower, while I prefer the peaceful sounds of a shoveling meditation. As I slowly scoop the snow from the sidewalks, I always take time to quietly enjoy our Wintertime shadow garden. Every year, I intentionally leave the tall stems and dried flower heads of my perennials standing, providing seeds and nesting materials for our feathered friends throughout the Winter months. Seeing these dried souvenirs in my flower beds always fills my heart with warm, sunny memories of happy days in the garden last Summer.

Winter snowfalls also provide nice visits with our neighbors, a quick wave or a brief chat, as we shiver together. Neighbors helping neighbors has always been an important part of the quiet street where we live. As a young homeowner when I moved here thirty-one years ago, I loved being the secret “snow angel” often helping my older neighbors. Years passed, and now we have become the grateful recipients of help with our snow.  We are so thankful for our neighbor, Ralf, who loves to help out with his enormous snowblower! Ours is tiny by comparison. During this snowy stretch, we also had a “secret snowman” who cleared our sidewalks and long driveway on two different days to surprise us! Such kindness is truly heartwarming and always so appreciated! 🙂

While the snowflakes tumbled down outside, it was the perfect time for some creative hours inside. I enjoyed playing with tiny Art Impressions Watercolor stamps and watercolor markers to practice some watercolor vignettes. At first, it was fun to create snowy scenes. However, as the snowflakes fell outside day after day, my my heart yearned to create tiny, sunny gardens.

Although it is very chilly in my little Paper Garden studio during the Winter months, I still bundle up and carry hot tea downstairs to make one or two cards at a time. This week, I have been creating floral cards to warm hearts of family and friends. Doing a bit of ‘gardening’ with paper and ink definitely warms my heart, too!

A lifelong letter writer, I have also been warming my heart by putting pen to paper. In quiet celebration of International Correspondence Writing Month (#InCoWriMo2018), I am enjoying writing long letters to dear friends. What a pleasure to decide who to write to, choose some pretty stationery from my desk drawer, and to fill a page or two with the breathings of my heart! I have also chosen a few names and addresses from the long list of international letter writers on the InCoWriMo 2018 website. I’m planning to write a few surprise letters! I chose someone who lives in my favorite little town in Wisconsin, someone in Ireland (a place I dream of visiting), someone in Paris (J’adore Paris!), and someone who has been such an inspiration for my journal writing.

All of my letters sent within the United States will carry a very special postage stamp. The Alzheimer’s semipostal stamp helps to raise awareness of this heartbreaking disease. Each Alzheimer’s stamp costs 65 cents and will help raise funds for the work that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is doing to help those suffering with this disease. This cause is very near and dear to my heart and it would mean so much to me if the friends of our blog would purchase the Alzheimer’s stamps at their local post offices. This new semipostal stamp will be available for two years. All of those small donations will make a difference in so many lives!

All of the special people who gather here

to read each post

and share their thoughts

definitely warm my heart!

This little Valentine

is especially for you!

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

Warmest hugs,

♡ Dawn

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A ‘Basket of Sunshine’

Hi Friends!

I’m certain that you already have everything

that you need at home.

So let’s create a ‘Basket of Sunshine’ together!

Very often, I reach for a tiny, gem of a book,

The Little Book of Hygge

(Danish Secrets to Happy Living). 

The author of this happy, little book, Meik Wiking, is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, in Copenhagen. He thoroughly understands hygge (pronounced HOO-GA)… and happiness!

Each time I turn the pages, I feel so inspired by the feelings of well-being, coziness, and togetherness celebrated in Danish homes. Living a simple life, filled with gratitude, can bring such comfort into our busy days. Pure hygge!

Being mindful of the health benefits of small touches of nature also adds feelings of hygge to our homes. It’s no wonder that the Danes are known as the happiest people in the world!

Meik Wiking suggests preparing a Hygge Emergency Kit  filled with essential items for those times when we all need a pick-me-up. Inspired by his list of helpful suggestions, yesterday I created a ‘Basket of Sunshine’ of my very own. I already had everything that I needed right here at home!

I brought up a large, empty basket from my Paper Garden studio downstairs. Instantly, I felt inspired to fill it with ‘happy’ things! The pink and white plaid scarf is one that I brought back from a very special visit to Paris one December. I just love wrapping up in this cozy scarf, overflowing with warm, happy memories! I added some letters and cards from friends and family, too. Writing letters always adds sunshine to my days! Next I tucked in the inspiring book Wabi-Sabi Welcome, by Julie Pointer Adams. I’m enjoying this book immensely as I soak up ideas for embracing the imperfect in our home and inviting friends to gather here. It feels sunny just dreaming up plans as I read!

Next, I tucked in two beloved journals. It gladdens my heart to savor my Morning Pages and my Garden Joys journals from 2017.  I just had to squeeze in two tiny photo albums filled with memories of lovely gatherings with my favorite author, Susan Branch. Looking back at all of the special photos from a book signing event and two enchanting tea parties with Susan fills my heart with the joy of dreams-come-true.

Music always soothes my soul. So, I added a few CDs: Nora Jones’ Come Away with Me is a perennial favorite. Her soulful, jazz vocals are so relaxing! Andean Nation’s Contrasts combines acoustic guitar and the haunting sound of bamboo pipes. I can still feel the warmth of their live performance as we walked through a lovely art fair, one afternoon in the desert Southwest. Instant sunshine!  The Elegance of Pachelbel is such wonderful music for writing and meditation. My heart melts each time I hear Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Nearly ten years ago, an acoustic guitarist played it so beautifully as my dad walked me down the aisle. Joy! Joy! Joy!

Tea makes everything better. So, I added tins of Blackberry Sage and Ginger Peach tea. I tucked in a pretty candle and there was just enough room to squeeze in a small dish of dark chocolate Kisses. Sweet little touches of happiness!

Deciding which cozy things would fill my very first ‘Basket of Sunshine’ was a delight!  I just gathered the items as I wandered from room to room. The whole process felt joyous. Whether it is a cold, snowy day, a time of worry about loved ones facing difficult times, or the need to escape from the news for a bit, now I know just where to turn for an extra dose of hygge. My ‘Basket of Sunshine’ is ready to fill my heart with cozy, happy, peaceful moments!  Every few weeks, it will be nice to add new elements of ‘sunshine’ to this special basket.

Perhaps the idea will catch on… and you will make a ‘Basket of Sunshine,’ too!  We’d love to hear what things you might add to your own basket. Hope you will share with us!

Until next time, stay cozy and be well.

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

Warmest hugs!

♡ Dawn

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