Change…

Hi Friends!

There is change in the air!

Can you feel it, too?

Today we were blessed with a mild, sunny day here in the Midwest. It was the perfect opportunity to rake leaves one last time and put my perennial and herb gardens to bed for a long Winter’s rest. As I worked, I reflected on the past year in the garden. An abundance of taller than usual perennials with extra-large blossoms was our reward for all of those rainy days. It was such a joy to bring my mom bouquets of flowers several times a week!

We had a growing season filled with unexpected surprises, too. In late April, a heavy, wet snowfall buried our tulip blossoms and scattered our Magnolia blossoms like confetti over the snow. Halloween brought several more inches of snow. We wished the brave, frozen trick-or-treaters a “Happy Halloween” (and a “Merry Christmas”, too!). They all giggled! 🙂 Brightly colored Autumn leaves blanketed our snowy yard in the days that followed. We have already shoveled Autumn snow several times this month.

Every November, I look forward to gathering stems of dried flowers and seed pods to fill antique wooden boxes and baskets for the front porch. Last week, it was an incredible challenge to collect garden gatherings that weren’t crushed by the early snow. This year, evergreen branches, shiny, holly-like sprigs of Grape Mahonia (Mahonia Aquifolium), pine cones, and one large bundle of dried Annabelle Hydrangeas (hanging in the garage) came to the rescue. Containers filled with garden gatherings help warm up the coldest of Winter days! I cherish the chance to enjoy these sweet garden memories when everything is covered under a thick blanket of snow.

As the seasons change, I’ve been enjoying The Simplicity of Cozy by Melissa Alvarez. It’s lovely to read about the traditions celebrated in many countries that encourage us to slow down, enjoy time in nature, and practice mindfulness. A warm afghan and a hot cup of herbal tea are the perfect accompaniments as I read and mark favorite passages. I’m looking forward to creating a special page in my Self-Care Journal for December with ideas inspired by this book.

We have a brand new family tradition beginning this Thanksgiving! 🙂 For the past 25 years, we have gathered around the table at our home with my brothers for Thanksgiving dinner. My parents always joined us for pumpkin pie, via Skype, from their desert home in Arizona. Last Thanksgiving, I was still in Arizona helping our parents prepare for their big move back to Illinois. So, my sweet husband carried on our Thanksgiving tradition on his own, by inviting my brothers for dinner, while my parents and I Skyped-in for pumpkin pie.

This year we are all so excited to celebrate our Thanksgiving together! 🙂  We will gather at my parents’ beautiful Senior Living Community for this happy celebration. The chef will prepare Thanksgiving dinner in their elegant dining room. The pumpkin pie will be sweeter than ever because our family will all be gathered around one table together! My heart is overflowing with gratitude…

One of my very favorite Thanksgiving traditions will not change at all. Many years ago, I wanted to encourage everyone to count our many blessings, amidst the always lively conversation during our Thanksgiving dinner. As I set the table, at each place setting I placed three kernels of unpopped popcorn. Between every two guests, I placed a small, vintage, pressed glass dish. When my husband and my brothers gave me a quizzical look, I explained…

At the very first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people gathered to celebrate Plymouth colony’s first harvest. By working together, they grew maize (corn) and other crops to sustain them. The three-day celebration was a time to give thanks for their harvest and all the ways they had worked together.

Then I reminded everyone that we were also gathering to give thanks and celebrate our strong family ties. So, throughout our dinner, each time we thought of something we were thankful for, we should drop one kernel of corn into the nearby glass dish, listening for the ringing sound it made. My kernels of corn slowly dropped into a dish, ting!… ting!… ting! as I silently counted my blessings throughout the meal. Little-by-little, the menfolk followed suit, silently counting their blessings. My heart warmed just knowing that we were adding a meaningful reminder of the reason we gather together on Thanksgiving!

Each year after, as I set a harvest table for Thanksgiving, I added an extra corn kernel to each place setting. Being mindful and taking time to count our blessings, silently during dinner, was becoming second nature. Sounds of ting! ting! ting! have become part of the soundtrack of our family feasts. Two years ago, each place setting had eight corn kernels. Last year, when the men gathered together for Thanksgiving, they decided to set up the corn kernels on their own to remember to count their blessings. 🙂 Imagine my surprise when they proudly shared the news with me via Skype!

At the end of each Thanksgiving dinner, I carefully place the “blessings” (corn kernels) into a small jar. It is slowly filling up with our family’s blessings! Each year, we use new corn kernels to count our blessings and add them to our Thankful Jar. You can be certain that I will bring lots of extra corn kernels and our Thankful Jar to my parents’ lovely, new  home this Thanksgiving!

Our long tradition reminds us all to be present and mindful of the reasons why we gather around the table filled with turkey, dressing, cranberries, squash, beans, cornbread,… and pumpkin pie. We are all looking forward to celebrating in a new place, surrounded by new friends and neighbors and their families. Oh, yes! It’s much more than pumpkin pie! Feel free to try this little tradition at your Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, or next special gathering. It’s so simple, but once those who gather catch on, it is a wonderful reminder of the purpose for our gathering!

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?

♥♥♥

All year long, as I count my blessings,

(and write them on the Gratitude page in my journal),

I feel so very grateful for all of the friends

who gather here at our little blog.

Thank you all for being here!

You inspire me in so many ways!

 

Wonderful news! A dear friend of our blog has just begun writing a new blog of her own. Vicky has lived in several different countries, in very different types of homes, and has recently moved back to her native New Zealand! She is a true kindred spirit, and a wonderful writer and photographer. Vicky and I met several years ago in an international, online book club for artists and other creatives. Letter writing and Skype visits have helped our friendship blossom over the years. Summertime is quickly approaching and  Vicky’s garden is thriving. I’m so happy that Vicky is now blogging at TheSpaciousLifeRealised.  🙂 Let’s surprise Vicky! Take a peek at her first post … and say “Hi!” I think you will enjoy her blog, too!

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving to all!

With warm gratitude,

♡ Dawn

 

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Gathering…

Hi Friends!

April showers have continued to drench the Midwest throughout May this year. We have already endured seventeen days of rain this month. Our rainiest May in 149 years has kept most gardeners indoors, as we study the weather forecast daily hoping for sunshine and warmer temperatures. Each day, our hearts have been heavy for those who are truly suffering in the aftermath of severe flooding and destructive tornadoes across our country.

May is always my very favorite month in the garden. Alas, this year’s Garden Journal holds only sparse notes of an hour here or there: tidying up the Herb & Tea garden, emptying the rain gauge, sweeping the Elm and Maple seeds from the front porch, and cutting bouquets of Lilacs and Lily-of-the-Valley. Mowing the lawn between rainstorms has taken a bit of strategic planning!

However, with our abundance of Spring rain,

 all of the blooming trees are just glorious!

While dreaming of sunshine,

I have been gathering inspiration on impromptu Artist Dates. 🙂

I took an early morning walk through a favorite park during Lilac Time.

Although I went to enjoy the beautiful Lilacs…

it was the magnificent Tulips that captured my fancy.

As I wandered through the park,

I gathered new inspiration for watercolors and ink combinations.

The designer who planned these sweeping beds

last Fall truly had an artistic vision!

As I paused to soak in all of Nature’s beauty…

I was inspired to make notes about ink colors.

Very soon, my little Paper Garden studio downstairs

will be blooming

with stamped, layered flowers for handmade cards.

Rainy days seem to call for a cup of tea, a cozy afghan, and a good book. I just finished reading The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker. The author brings a fascinating background and her expertise in conflict resolution to this engaging book on creating transformative gatherings of many kinds. Priya Parker dives deep into many different types of gatherings throughout the world designed to intentionally bring people closer. Whether we gather for business meetings, family reunions, weddings, birthday celebrations, to mourn, or to experience something new, the author takes us step-by-step through the art and science of planning truly memorable gatherings.

As I read, I reflected on so many different types of wonderful gatherings over the years ~ those powerful moments in my primary classroom, inspiring workshops, unique gatherings of friends, and our most heartwarming family gatherings. We can all remember those very special, often unexpected gatherings that impacted us in powerful ways and created lasting memories.

Priya Parker teaches us that these transformative gatherings begin with an interesting purpose that matches a true need in our life. She shares ideas that help us understand who to include and who to temporarily exclude when planning purposeful, powerful gatherings that bring people closer together and inspire us to take action.

Oh, my goodness, I made notes as I read. I have always dreamed of bringing together the special people in my life who have never met one another in purposeful, small groups. 🙂 With thoughtful planning, just imagine the conversations and inspiration that would happen at such gatherings!

(Watch Priya Parker’s recent TED Talk here. It’s wonderful!)

Although I read The Art of Gathering on my own, I think it would make a very interesting Book Club selection. Readers would be able to share past gatherings and what made them so memorable. Creating events that bring people together with a unique purpose can have lasting power!

As I read The Art of Gathering, my thoughts also turned to our little gathering place for kindred spirits here at Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes. Our quiet, little blog is five years old now! 🙂  (You might enjoy reading about how our blog began in this post.)  I’m so very grateful for the old friends who have been visiting from the very beginning and the new friends who discover us and and join in the fun. I love to learn from you and am inspired by all that you share in your thoughtful comments. I truly appreciate you spending a bit of your precious time gathering here with us. YOU are often mentioned on the Gratitude page in my journal. Heartfelt thanks for always being here!

In anticipation of our 5th Anniversary, I have been making some changes behind the scenes here. There is a brand new About page. I have updated the Inspiration page and have included a few Podcasts that I’ve been enjoying lately. The Favorites page contains two fabulous, new stamp companies that have won my heart with their unique designs and truly wonderful customer service. The Say Hello page is an easy way to reach me anytime via email.

I also added a new Category, making it easy to search for blog posts that interest you most. In addition to Petals (gardening posts), Paper (cardmaking, bullet journaling, watercoloring posts,…), and Simple Thymes (life’s simple pleasures, family stories, antiquing, nature walks, travels,…), we now have an Inspiring Books category. Searching Inspiring Books will pull up all of the posts about books that have moved me to take action. These books taught me wonderful lessons and prompted me to make real changes! I hope that you will find them valuable, too.

It is our gatherings and connections that make life extra-sweet. Although I love the creative process of making cards, my very favorite part is sending my cards off in the mail to touch hearts. Although I am energized by the creative process of writing and shooting photos for each blog post, I find true JOY in our connection in the comments that you leave here. I love taking the time to read and answer each comment. I hope you feel comfortable chatting with one another here, too! Kindred spirits always gather here… and that’s something truly wonderful to celebrate!

Just wondering

  What gathering has made an unexpected, powerful impact on you? What made this gathering different from all of the others?

  Do you prefer gathering with people who are much like you or do you enjoy meeting people who are different, yet open to a shared experience?

  Do you find large gatherings or small gatherings more enjoyable?

  Is there a special gathering that you would love to plan some day?

Hope you will share your thoughts with all of us…

 

Please stay safe throughout this long, holiday weekend,

especially if dangerous weather threatens.

Let’s take a moment on Memorial Day to honor all those

who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy every day.

 

With love and gratitude,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

 

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Twelve Miles

Hi Friends!

Twelve miles!

Twelve joyous, little miles!

I’m feeling so very blessed!

For the past twenty-five years, visits with my parents meant: a taxi ride, airport security lines, a 3.5 hour flight, and a Super Shuttle ride to their lovely desert home. We traveled 1,800 miles each way to visit them and they traveled 1,800 miles each way to visit us. There were always so many happy “Welcome” hugs… and so many teary-eyed “Take Good Care of Each Other” hugs…

Just two weeks ago, we helped our parents begin the next chapter

of their amazing love story!

Best of all, they are now living just twelve miles away!!

My parents chose a lovely apartment in a brand new Senior Living Community. This new, easier lifestyle offers three chef-prepared meals each day, lots of activities, housekeeping services, transportation, and a very kind, caring staff always willing to lend a hand.

Their new community offers convenience, with several dining rooms, a small library, fitness center, movie theater, hair salon, and several activity rooms. When the warm weather arrives, there are beautiful outdoor spaces to gather, as well.

As their needs change, my parents will be able to move through a full spectrum of care ~ Independent Living, Assisted Living, Transitional Memory Care, and Full Memory Care.

The entire community is filled with inviting gathering spaces that encourage neighbors to leave their apartments and make healthy, happy connections with one another. Everyone is brand new and making friends together! It’s so nice to hear new friends laughing, making connections, and networking with one another. 🙂

Thankfully, everything went smoothly on Moving Day. After the movers left, our family began slowly unpacking boxes together, meeting the new neighbors, and gradually learning our way around the community. This is a time of huge transition for our parents and all of the new residents.

I have been spending lots of time with my parents each day and have watched them slowly embrace their new lifestyle. The other day, as I looked around the dining room, I noticed daughters sitting with their parents at every table. 🙂 We are a ‘sisterhood’ of caregivers! It has been very nice getting to know the other daughters, too.

Change can be extremely hard!!

Throughout this challenging time of change,

over the past two years,

I have been very intentional about counting my blessings out loud.

My Self-Care Journal helped to document

this very difficult cross-country journey

month-by-month.

My monthly ‘Gratitude’ and ‘Reasons to Be Proud’ pages

are filled with the people and moments

that have become a special part of our family’s story.

So grateful for…

My husband’s love and support every step of the way!

My parents’ strength as they endured our very long, unbelievably cold and snowy winter. Their first Midwest winter in 25 years was extremely hard on them!

The special memories we made together during their stay at our home! We proved that love grows best in small houses. Life was really cozy here in our tiny bungalow!

Patience… as repeated construction and staffing delays postponed my parents’ move-in day from: the end of December, to early January, mid-January, early February, to mid-March!! We just kept looking forward to the promise of a new, easier lifestyle that I made to my parents when we left warm, sunny Arizona back in early December.

Hugs… lots of hugs!

 

So very grateful for…

Excellent medical care when my dad suffered a heart attack at our home in early February. The paramedics arrived in just two minutes. The doctors, nurses, and hospitalist that helped my dad during his hospital stay were amazing!

My mom’s bravery during this frightening emergency! My mom and I stayed at the hospital day and night with my dad throughout his stay. My brothers and my husband were there with us every day.

The kindness of a dear friend who came to the hospital with cozy blankets, pillows, slippers, and a curling iron 🙂 to make those many overnight stays easier for my mom and I.

The concern of friends and family who called, offered prayers, sent flowers, offered to bring us meals, and sent emails and cards during my dad’s lengthy recovery at home. Your kindness will always be cherished by our family!

My parents’ Arizona friends who called and sent cards of encouragement.

Hugs… so very healing!

 

So grateful for…

My parents’ positive attitude as we planned for our mid-March move-in day! Moving is always very stressful, but we all kept making plans and counting down the days together.

So much help from my brothers and my husband throughout Moving week! We each offered our strengths: muscle power, assembling furniture, technology support, and detailed planning. Teamwork made everything easier!

New friends and neighbors!

The friendly, helpful staff at my parents’ new Senior Living Community.

YOU, dear blog friends! Thank you so much for continuing to visit our little blog throughout the quiet months. It truly warmed my heart to see visitors, from near and far, reading older posts each day. What a joy to hear from you, too! Skype chats and FaceTime chats added delight to my days! Our friendships continue to grow stronger and deeper. My heart is full! ♥♥

New beginnings!  During April, I look forward to writing more often, visiting with friends again, time in the garden, and adding a bit more creative playtime to my days.

Look for the small joys

tucked into the corners

of each day!

 

Warmest hugs for stopping to visit today!

Dawn

 

 

 

 

Quiet…

Hi Friends!

Our native plants are in full bloom here in the Prairie State. We are very fortunate to have several prairie areas nearby, just perfect for a walking meditation on a recent Summer morning.

The gentle, winding path took me past a quiet marsh area. Peaceful lilypads, slender grasses, sunny coneflowers, and delicate Queen Anne’s Lace inspired me to pause and reflect…

Native wildflowers have long roots that run so deep,

much like our family roots.

The Native plants support one another.

Growing together in the prairie ecosystem

allows the wildflowers to survive the difficult times and thrive.

As I walked, the silence was only broken

by the song of red wing blackbirds and crickets.

Then the stillness and quiet returned.

I wanted to let everyone know that, much like the quiet of the prairie, our blog will be quiet for a little while. I will be dedicating my time to helping my family and there just won’t be time to write and edit posts for a while. As soon as possible, I look forward to writing again. There is so much to share!

In the meantime, I hope you will peek into the blog archives to enjoy stories you may have missed during your busy times. Be sure to read through the comments, for these little conversations are always the highlights of every blog post here!

I will pop in to check our blog each day, so please do continue to leave your lovely comments on any post. Replying to your comments brings me such joy! You can always reach me, by email, through the ‘Say Hello’ page. I very much look forward to hearing from you!

Heartfelt thanks for always being here!

With love,

♡ 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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Thankful Heart

Hi Friends! 

A special welcome to everyone joining us for the Papertrey Ink November Blog Hop Challenge! Hop over to Nichole’s blog if you would like to join in the fun!

November is flying by! Can you feel it, too?  It always takes me more than one day to count my blessings. The entire month has been filled with giving thanks every single day. Small moments that add comfort and joy to each day have made my thankful heart overflow with gratitude…

These small moments are always there. We just have to be still and mindful to recognize and appreciate them. Cultivating gratitude helps me to keep my worries in perspective, cope with life’s challenges, and brings joy to every day!

Early on November 1st, we headed west to spend time with my parents in Arizona. We cherish each chance to celebrate their birthdays together. I hold dear each day spent helping out, enjoying old family stories, and making sweet memories together. My parents continue to be our best teachers, constantly showing us how to live a good life and nourish a beautiful, loving marriage.

My mom is the charming soul who taught me all about gardening so long ago. It’s always a delight to take walks together through the desert neighborhood where she has been gardening for the past 23 years.  Last week, we worked together to trim her Bird of Paradise shrub and deadhead the Desert Marigolds.  The bright orange berries on her Pyracantha shrub are visited daily by a family of quail just waiting for the berries to turn crimson and sweet. One day a roadrunner joined us in my mom’s garden. Autumn in the desert has been extra special this year for so many reasons!

Together we drove through the nearby Tonto National Forest, past breathtaking mountains, to visit lovely Saguaro Lake. My family has so many wonderful memories of hiking along the lake together over the past two decades. Seeing mighty Saguaros growing along the sparkling water always amazes me!

While heading back to the Midwest,  I admired the majestic, snow capped mountains of New Mexico and the earthy, patchwork quilt of the heartland. The natural beauty of our country always fills me with hope for this land that I love.

I thought about the excited (but nervous) three young men and four young women that I met at our boarding gate just hours before. They talked about how excited they were to shovel snow for the first time. (I promised them a lot of snow during their two months in Illinois!) I wanted to be among the first to thank these young Americans for their service, as they headed off to Navy boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Station.  These young men and women and their families will sacrifice so much for all of us. We owe them our deepest gratitude.

It feels wonderful to be back home again in our cozy Midwest home just in time for the holidays! The seasons changed and snowflakes fell upon my garden while we were away. So, I happily spent a few quiet moments in the garden gathering dried flowers and seed heads to fill an antique wooden box on our front porch. These garden gatherings are sweet reminders of those glorious Summer days spent in my perennial and herb gardens. Yesterday I raked so many leaves!  It was a quiet, poignant time to reflect on all of the changes of the past year.

Throughout the year, my heart is filled with the blessings of two passions that help me blossom and grow in new ways. While my perennial and herb gardens sleep through the Winter, there will now be much more time in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs.

Kindness has always been one of my love languages. Creating handmade cards to share with family and friends truly warms my heart. I find the most wonderful stamps, dies, inks, and paper at Papertrey Ink.  (So grateful for the exciting, new supplies that arrived in my mailbox this week! 🙂 ) The talented Design Team at Papertrey Ink constantly inspires me. Time spent designing special cards always nourishes my creative heart and soul.

I just love thinking about those I hold dear as I create each card. It feels like a little ‘visit’ with them as I stamp, ink, cut, and emboss. Lettering the envelope, adding a special postage stamp, and dropping it into the mailbox makes sending my little ‘paper hugs’ such a happy, little thing!

I’ve been busy making extra Thanksgiving cards for the dear friends and neighbors who watched over our home while we were away helping my parents. For me, hand-delivering cards is always a special part of the joy of card making!

This little ‘paper hug’ is especially for all of the dear friends who gather here to read and leave their thoughts on our blog. 🙂 I cherish your kindness all year long. I am humbled by the worldwide visitors who take time to visit each day. We are a small, but wonderful group who constantly remind me of everything good in the world.  You inspire me, teach me, and encourage me to blossom in new ways!

Thank you for being YOU and for being here!

Wishing you all of the beautiful graces

of the season…

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

With a thankful heart,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  What small joys fill your thankful heart?

Hope you will share… 

 

 

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Sweet Memories

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Hi Friends!

It happens every year! After the magic of Christmas comes a quiet week… just right for reflecting. I cherish these peaceful moments as I make time to look back over the past 366 days. Just scrolling through my iPhoto library and Camera Roll takes me right back to those small moments and special times ~ a true celebration of 2016.

christmasmemories

During the last week of the year, I love to set aside many hours to document our family stories in our Christmas Memories keepsake book, by Susan Branch. Each book holds five years of family traditions ~ and we are nearing the end of our second volume. (I’m so grateful to have two new copies of Christmas Memories tucked safely away to hold ten more years of memories.)  A cup of tea, soft candlelight, and the sounds of Christmas music, help me to savor and preserve our stories.

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It’s also the perfect time to reflect on the ‘One Little Word’ that has inspired me throughout the entire year.  I chose the word Blossom for 2016. (Truthfully, the word Blossom chose me!) It was my intention all year long to bravely share my handmade cards with others in the papercrafting community. There were some lovely ‘firsts’ this year… new ways to blossom!

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The wonderfully supportive papercrafting community on Instagram welcomed me with encouraging words as I blossomed throughout the year. It’s always heartwarming when other card makers and the stamp designers comment on our handmade cards.

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Monthly paper crafting ‘Crops’ have been a very special part of my blossoming throughout the year. I always pack a basket of stamps, inks, watercolor paper, and markers with great anticipation. It’s just wonderful to gather with friends on a Saturday, as we each work on our own projects together. Creative hands and kind hearts make the hours fly by. Sharing, learning from one another, and laughing together is a delight. I feel so blessed to have found my crafty ‘tribe’ this year!

Starry Night collage

In July, I spent a creative day with papercrafters from around the globe, as we participated in the Papertrey Ink Stamp-a-Faire 2016. Inspired by the works of the The Masters throughout art history and the talented PTI Design Team, I stretched my skills immensely as I learned many new techniques. Although I worked alone in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs, it felt so great to be a part of something much bigger! Afterwards, I shared my creations as part of a Papertrey Ink Blog Hop. I cherish the sweet memories of that special day. It was a perfect way to blossom, blossom, blossom!

You can read all about it here.

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Creating cards to let loved ones know that I am thinking of them is a special passion. The time spent on each one-of-a-kind card always feels like a little visit with family and friends 🙂  Sharing handmade kindness is one small way of making a difference… and blossoming!

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Of all the books I have enjoyed this year, there are two that have truly inspired my creative journey…

both touched my heart deeply and brought tears to my eyes.

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Martha’s Vineyard ~ Isle of Dreams, the newest book in Susan Branch’s memoir trilogy, was published in Spring 2016. This handwritten, watercolored treasure takes us along as a young Susan flies away from California for a fresh start on Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts. I felt so many connections as she bought a little house of her own and turned it into ‘home sweet home.’ It was truly fascinating as Susan shared her determination, hard work, and the creative path she followed as she grew into an artist and author.

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What a joy to read! So inspiring! During a tea party and book signing in May, I was so grateful for the opportunity to spend a bit of time with Susan again, and to tell her how much this book meant to me. Of all of the wonderful quotations in this book, I shared the one that inspired me the most… and Susan told me that it was her very favorite quotation, too. Kindred spirits!

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Take a peek back at some of the sweetest memories of that very special day with Susan Branch here.

If you click on the Menu bar of our blog, the Tag Cloud will lead you to many of the ways

Susan has been an inspiration in my life!

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Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, spoke directly to my heart and inspired me to keep practicing even though creativity can feel so scary at times. I revisit so many quotations from this wonderful book often as I meander along this creative journey. 

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Take a peek at the powerful connections I felt as I read Big Magic here.

Although I am always drawn to nonfiction, every so often my heart needs a little ‘escape’ from the news of the world. That’s when I reach for a bit of fiction. Earlier this month, I really enjoyed Debbie Macomber’s new Christmas novel, Twelve Days of Christmas. It’s a delightful holiday story, with a fun blogging twist! 🙂 It is just perfect for making sweet memories…

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It’s been a very busy year of growing and blossoming!

I can’t wait to share my ‘One Little Word’ for 2017 next week.

I began listening for my new OLW in early November. Within just a few weeks, my new word found me.

If you would like to learn more about  ‘One Little Word’ and see how I have used each word, look here and here.

This will be my sixth year of setting my intentions for the New Year, using ‘One Little Word.’

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May the New Year bring you an abundance of joy…

and a grateful heart!

That’s exactly how I feel each time I read your thoughtful comments.

Heartfelt thanks for taking the time to write and share your thoughts with all of us.

With gratitude,

♡ Dawn

                       P.S.  What were your favorite books this year? We’d love to hear about the books that you loved!

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