Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Hi Friends!

As our busy Summer slips away, it feels like the perfect time to share one of our very favorite Summer days. Visiting the Chicago Botanic Garden is always a treat for all of the senses! On this delightful, late August day, the gardens welcomed us… as my heart overflowed with a sweet song of Summer.

Strolling together along quiet lakes with my husband has always been a beautiful part of “our story.” In fact, we will always cherish one of our very early dates here, at the Chicago Botanic Garden,  as we walked hand-in-hand while getting to know one another! ♥♥

The early morning stillness felt like a walking meditation. The pollinators were already busy at work while we had the garden paths to ourselves.

I always find so much inspiration here that it quickly turns into an Artist’s Date! I’m drawn to nature’s color combinations that would be so lovely in my cottage perennial gardens and the delicate petal forms that I long to capture with watercolors in my new sketchbook. My camera roll quickly fills with all of the beauty… along with a ‘wish list’ of perennials that would feel right at home in my garden!

 

This has been my Summer to learn more about Mason bees because we were gifted with a beautiful Mason bee house for our garden. Each morning, I check on their progress as these hardworking pollinators fill the tiny, hollow tubes with eggs. Little-by-little, they seal each full tube with wet, clay soil.

In nature, Mason bees often lay their eggs in tiny cracks, in pine cones, in bundles of sticks, and other protected spaces, then seal the opening with wet soil. We really enjoyed this large display about Mason bees.

Isn’t this a truly charming Mason bee house? Nestled in among the Hydrangea blossoms, the house rests on a tree trunk. Bee-still my heart… even more inspiration! 🙂

My heart was all a-flutter as I glanced at my watch.

It was time!

The main reason for today’s visit was to enjoy the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition at the Chicago Botanic Garden. From late May through early September, visitors have a rare opportunity to spend time with live butterflies native to South America, North America, Asia, Africa, and some Illinois natives, as well. Just six people at a time entered the vestibule for our introduction and instructions. We were reminded to look down at the ground often, especially after standing in one place to observe or photograph. Butterflies often rest on the ground and care must be taken to preserve their safety.

As we carefully stepped inside,

such a peaceful, easy feeling washed over me…

A beautiful garden of host plants in full bloom welcomed us inside the large screened-in exhibition space. Hundreds of butterflies fluttered about landing on the colorful blooms. (To learn the name and country of origin of each butterfly, just click here.)

I enjoyed seeing so many of the same flowers that grow in my perennial garden beds. 🙂 (To learn about the flowers from the exhibition, just click here.) It was so interesting to observe the how blossom colors and forms attracted the butterflies.

We headed toward the Pupa Room to peek through the window into the Emergence Chamber. Every Friday throughout the exhibition, 300 to 500 new chrysalises arrive here. All of them are raised on butterfly farms for  educational purposes. The butterflies and moths for this exhibition are never caught in the wild.

The chrysalises hang inside the hot, humid Emergence Chamber (80 degrees F, 80% humidity) until they are ready to hatch. Butterflies usually emerge in the morning as the sun shines down on the Emergence Chamber. It only takes a few seconds to emerge! The new butterfly hangs onto the chrysalis until it is ready to unfurl its wings. As soon as its wings are dry, it begins to fly around. Then it is carefully lifted out for release. What an amazing Morning Science lesson!

We were delighted to observe several brand new butterflies being released into the exhibition. I just love new beginnings! 🙂 The new butterflies immediately flew over to a nearby feeding dish.

Four feeding dishes are scattered throughout the exhibition space. The dishes are filled with rotting fruit and a sponge filled with blue Gatorade. Butterflies like to eat bananas, watermelon, mangoes and pineapple (the more rotten the better). They sip sugar water from the sponge and flower nectar through their proboscis, a straw-like structure. Butterflies do not have chewing mouth parts.

Enjoy the delicate beauty of a few of these “flying flowers”…

We also had a fascinating opportunity to view a large atlas moth (native to Southeast Asia) up close. It is one of the largest insects on the planet. The atlas moth does not feed after emerging from its cocoon. During the day, it doesn’t move from its resting place. It uses all of its energy while looking for a mate at night. This beautiful moth only lives for one or two weeks.

This close up shows the intricate, detailed wing of the atlas moth.

Awe inspiring!

 

When a butterfly landed on my wrist, it was a perfect time for an impromptu Science lesson with some young visitors. (Once a teacher, always a teacher!) 🙂 Another visitor walked by wearing a straw hat adorned with visiting butterflies.

  A short Butterflies & Blooms video (courtesy of The Chicago Botanic Garden)

As visitors came and left, we lingered in this peaceful oasis for 1.5 hours. There was so much beauty to savor and enjoy! My sweet husband has been a Lepidoptera enthusiast since childhood. So, he was truly in seventh heaven! Spending time among hundreds of colorful butterflies gave me the most wonderful, peaceful, easy feeling!

As we left the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition, special Butterfly TSA volunteers carefully checked us for any butterfly ‘hitchhikers’ that might ride out with us. In the outer vestibule, each visitor spun around at a mirror to check for possible butterfly escapees. We must be very careful to avoid introducing non-native species to our environment.

We had such a lovely morning! It was simply delightful to watch the young children interacting with the butterflies. Photographers focused their long lenses as butterflies sipped nectar from blossoms. Gardeners dreamed of new perennials to attract butterflies to their gardens. My heart was overflowing with gratitude for this peaceful, enchanting experience!

Heartfelt thanks, dear blog friends, for continuing to visit

over the past several weeks.

I am truly grateful for your friendship! ♥♥

Special family time is keeping me extra busy.

I still have SO many stories to share…

♥♥♥

Sending crisp, cozy Autumn blessings,

from my heart to yours!

 

With gratitude,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  When did you experience a peaceful, easy feeling this Summer?  Hope you will share with us!

 

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Inspiration… Everywhere!

Hi Friends!

Early Saturday morning we drove out into the countryside ~ passing lush, green fields, tidy, white farmhouses, and faded red barns. We were both looking forward to being outside in the morning sunshine and soaking up inspiration. As we pulled into the quiet, little town of Morris, our car knew the way to our usual out-of-the-way parking place. (The perfect spot just in case we wanted to carry some inspiration back to the car!)

It was 8 o’clock and Canalport Park was already filled with people. The friendliest people gather at the 3 French Hens French Country Market very early on the second Saturday of each month, from May through October. Everyone is seeking their favorite kind of inspiration!  Young and old, couples, singles, and families with pups on leashes wander through the park in search of antiques, upcycled art, handmade jewelry, artisan soaps, fresh-baked pies and breads, flowers of all kinds, and so much more.  Locally grown produce and a variety of tempting, hot foods and cold drinks often inspire a spur-of-the-moment picnic in the park, too.

As always, my husband and I started off together looking at the tables and displays filled with antiques. Before long, we each ventured off in search of our own favorite types of inspiration. I am drawn to antique furniture, vintage dishes, antique teacups, and interesting stoneware crocks, enamelware pitchers, and Mason jars to hold bouquets of garden flowers. He is drawn to antique books, old tools, and historic memorabilia.

Before long, he will walk across the wooden footbridge crossing the historic I & M Canal ~

to find inspiration

in a quiet walk in nature.

 

He enjoys hiking the wooded path to the Illinois River

to observe the local fauna and watch all kinds of boats on the river.

This was my Saturday morning ‘Artist’s Date’ seeking inspiration for our home and garden, as I nourished my creative heart and soul.  I have been truly smitten with Farmhouse Style decorating lately. Fresh, white beadboard, walls covered with wood slats, natural wood finishes, and pops of color and natural textures have been calling my name. Old and rustic, yet simple and fresh! What better place to soak up that Farmhouse feeling than in a lovely park in the countryside! I have always been drawn to wooden signs ~ the words, the lettering styles, the rustic textures, and the soft colors. Walking through the 3 French Hens French Country Market felt like I was walking through my favorite Pinterest boards, with inspiration everywhere!

Come on along… so I can show you a few things that caught my eye on Saturday morning!

These muted colors and different textures made my heart sing!

Everything on this table could find a place in our little ‘nest.’

Bunting makes every day feel like a little celebration!

Hand lettered signs add just the right touch of warmth and coziness to any room.

I love the brush lettered style (especially bouncy brush lettering!).

I think I’m going to need some old, rustic barnwood! 🙂

This ‘Artist’s Date’

surrounded me with inspiration… everywhere I looked!

Lettering inspiration embellished

fluffy, white pillows,

embroidered, straw hats,

and more weathered barnwood!

As I walked along the edge of Canalport Park, I came upon something that stopped me in my tracks. Right before my eyes, a Tractor Parade turned slowly onto Illinois Street. Vintage farm tractors and modern tractors of every color and size passed by very slowly. Most of the tractors displayed American flags and many had shade umbrellas, too. A local artisan told me that farmers love to parade through small towns on Summer weekends in their beloved tractors, gathering for breakfast together in a small cafe. I just had to stop and watch…  🙂

This parade brought back such wonderful childhood memories of riding in antique car parades on Summer weekends. My dad drove our Model A Ford Coupe, that he had lovingly restored, blowing the ‘ooh-gah’ horn often. Dad and Mom rode inside the car, while my brothers and I waved to the parade watchers from the rumble seat! 🙂 

It’s such a wonderful thing when people discover their ‘tribe’ of kindred spirits ~

car people, tractor people, boat people, train people,

readers, gardeners, runners, cyclists, collectors, crafters,… ! 

Inspiration is everywhere, if we just take the time to look for it.

More lettering inspiration ~

on rusty metal and rustic paper!

 

These signs were lettered on upcycled kitchen cabinet doors. What a great idea!

One of them just had to come home to our cozy, little bungalow.

Can you guess which one?

It’s a good thing our perfect, out-of-the-way, parking spot was nearby!  🙂

After two inspiring hours, my husband came to find me in the park.

We had just enough time to look for inspiration in the nearby vintage shops ~

before driving one more hour through the peaceful countryside

to spend a lovely afternoon with our dear family.

♥♥♥

Thanks so much for visiting today!

Where do you find inspiration on a Summer weekend?

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Sense of Wonder

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Hi Friends!

New beginnings ~ I have always loved them! Whether it is the beginning of a new school year or a brand new calendar year, I am always excited by 365 new opportunities to learn and grow! Sometimes, all of this newness can feel a bit scary or intimidating. Having a thoughtful plan, though, can help new beginnings feel joyful!

For each of the past five years, I have chosen ‘One Little Word’ to guide me along this path of learning and growing. What a difference it has made for me each year! In late November, I began listening closely to my heart so that I could choose OLW for 2017.  Within a few weeks, my word ‘chose’ me.  As I was reading, one word jumped right off the page and into my heart! At that very moment, I knew that this was the word to guide me through the new year. I didn’t tell anyone… I just let this word settle into my soul. It felt perfect! As we rang in the New Year, I celebrated my new ‘One Little Word’ 2017! With paper and ink, I created bunting, a card, a bookmark, and a magnet to keep my word visible each day. Now it’s finally time to share… 🙂

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Family and friends have watched and encouraged as I have followed my creative heart during my Renaissance (the ‘R’ word that I use for my Retirement). So, now it’s time to take the next step ~ one that feels so important to me. My ‘One Little Word’ will help me in so many ways…

nourish

   1.   to sustain with food or nutrient;

                                           supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth

     2.   to cherish, foster, keep alive, etc.

          3.   to strengthen, build up, or promote

Source: Dictionary.com

Throughout my entire life, I have always been a “Work before play” kind of person. This philosophy served me very well throughout my career. A few years into my Renaissance now, it is time to make a change.  It is my intention to prioritize my creative time, downstairs in my Paper Garden studio. Rather than taking care of our home and garden first, often feeling uninspired to be creative later in the day, I am planning to take time in the morning to be creative! Mornings were just made for paper, inks, stamps, paints, brushes, and being messy in my little Paper Garden studio! 

Fortunately, I have found the most wonderful book to guide me as I nourish my creative side!

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The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, has been inspiring creative souls for twenty-five years. It has been on my reading list for a very long time. As I shopped for the book last Fall, I discovered that the author has a newly published version of The Artist’s Way Program for Retirees and Other Creative Souls, called It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again.  It holds so much inspiration to nourish my creative path! I’m already on my way…

It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again is

a step-by-step, twelve-week program with four basic tools:

Morning Pages (daily)

Artist Dates (once a week)

Memoir (weekly, with five tasks)

Walking (twice a week)

So, I’m excited to share a bit about the ways I have been nourishing my creative side this week…

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I’ve always loved writing, so Morning Pages are becoming a part of my early morning routine. Filling three pages, in longhand, with my morning thoughts has been quite pleasurable ~ and powerful!  For quite a while, I have been thinking about ways to bring more creative time into my day. While writing my thoughts on January 1st, I actually formulated a real plan. The slow, thoughtful process of writing can be a beneficial way of problem-solving, setting intentions, voicing worries, and putting dreams into action.

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Since this whole process feels like a wonderful gift to myself, I am writing Morning Pages in my nice handwriting (just as I do when I write cards to loved ones). Soft music and a cup of tea accompany me as I write. It takes time and my hand feels tired, but so far I am enjoying it immensely! Julia Cameron reminds us not to share our Morning Pages with anyone, so my husband understands that he cannot peek.  🙂

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On Wednesday morning, I planned my very first Artist Date.  I bundled in layers to protect me from the -8 F windchill and headed off to a tropical paradise ~ a very large Orchid grower’s greenhouses! It is one of my favorite places to visit each winter. Since we are having such a frigid week here, it was the perfect way to combine my Walking in nature with an Artist Date.

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At first, my focus was on Walking throughout the 150,000 square feet of greenhouses. Julia Cameron encourages two 20-minute walks each week, without a companion, phone, or even a pet. It is a time for quiet thinking and observing.

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Then it was time to begin my first Artist Date (and take out my camera). Rather than focusing on the names of each variety of Orchid, my attention was drawn to the colors and patterns in the blossoms and foliage. As I meandered, I found colors just like the inks on my studio desk ~ Spiced Marmalade, Picked Raspberry, Scattered Straw, and Worn Lipstick distress inks, and Blushing Bride, Daffodil Delight, Wild Wasabi, Elegant Eggplant, and Gumball Green dye inks.

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These graceful orchid forms will truly inspire my stamped and watercolor floral designs and layouts.

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Julia Cameron encourages each Artist Date to be thoughtfully planned in advance. One must go alone, rather than invite a friend. This intentional, mindful tool benefits our creativity and independence as we visit inspiring places of interest. I have a growing list of places for my weekly Artist Date ~ old favorites and new adventures!

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I have always wanted to write Memoir and have even participated in a Memoir workshop in the past. So, I am really looking forward to filling my new Memoir Journal with treasured memories! Each week, Julia Cameron assigns five different writing tasks around a weekly theme. Our first week’s theme for our writing prompts is “A Sense of Wonder.” 

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Each week, my Memoir writing will focus on a five-year span of my life. In our first week, we are writing about discoveries, cherished memories, and surprising connections from birth through age five. What fun to read through my Baby Book (Thanks, Mom!!) and reminisce with old photo albums! I’m going to love, love, love this walk down memory lane… and can’t wait to see what connections and discoveries are made! It’s just exactly the inspiration I need as I nourish and rekindle my love of scrapbooking!

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Adding The Artist’s Way tools to my very busy life will be both challenging and exciting. It will most certainly nourish my creative heart and soul in unknown ways! Since my days are so full already, I plan to stretch out The Artist’s Way a bit longer than twelve weeks. I truly want to savor each weekly theme (Purpose, Joy, Vitality, Connection, Motion, Adventure,…) as I learn and grow on my creative path this year.  I will be enjoying mornings in my Paper Garden studio, too! ♥♥

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Do any of The Artist’s Way tools sound interesting to you?

If any of our kindred spirits would also like to take this creative journey this year,

I would love to connect and quietly share our discoveries! (Just contact me through ‘Say Hello’ on the blog.)

Please let me know, in the comments, if you would like to read a few blog updates

as I travel along The Artist’s Way!

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Thanks so much for being a part of my creative journey!

Warmest hugs!

♡ Dawn

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