Chatting By the Garden Gate ~ August

Hi Friends!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

My perennial garden is bathed in bright, sunny blossoms

of Rudbeckia and Black-eyed Susans every August.

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I would LOVE some tried and true garden advice ~

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

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

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

for six years now.

Nurturing the friendships we have grown is so heartwarming.

Writing nourishes my creative soul.

YOU inspire me to keep growing and blooming!

♥♥♥

Thank you for joining me

for a very chatty, garden walk today!

 

Stay safe, sweet friends!

Be well.

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

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New Growth…

Hi Friends!

Welcome to all of our new friends, too! I’m so glad that you are here! I hope that you and all those you love are safe and healthy. My family continues to stay at home and stay safe. I am so grateful to everyone who has written and called to check on us! We have been so touched by your surprises left on our front porch, too. Your thoughtfulness is truly appreciated. When I check on the blog each day, it warms my heart to see visitors from so many countries who have stopped to visit here. Thank you all for being a special part of my life!

I have truly been savoring my early morning walks through the garden as I snip bouquets of colorful blossoms. It has become a lovely gratitude practice. I love bringing my mom lots of bouquets and leaving Mason jars filled with flowers by our neighbors’ doors. Simple gifts from the heart…

It’s not only my perennial and herb gardens that have been growing this summer.

I am experiencing new growth day-by-day, as well.

I can feel it…

 Several weeks ago, I came upon these words

from the Baha’i faith…

 

“We are the flowers of one garden.”

Just as I cherish all the colors blooming in my garden,

I celebrate the diversity of all the people of color in our country.

“We are the flowers of one garden.”

In this time of renewed awareness, I am intentionally making time in each day for new growth as I learn more about about the reality of social justice, equality, and inclusion for all. I’m seeking out and listening closely to Black voices. Although I cannot fully understand all that I am learning, I will do all that I can to empower the voices of those who do understand. I feel called to be a megaphone, amplifying the voices of Black women…

A few weeks ago, I read the New York Times bestseller, I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown. What a powerful memoir! I read with a highlighter in hand, sticky notes to flag passages, and a pencil to add my thoughts and questions. I’m definitely planning to reread it. I highly recommend this book! Austin Channing Brown has moved me to continue to do the hard work of listening, learning, and growing.

Austin’s awareness of racial injustice began when she was only seven years old. Her story is certain to open the hearts and minds of her readers. Her memoir offers important food for thought for teachers and workplaces of all kinds.

Austin shares the subtle effects of white supremacy that have powerfully impacted her education, religion, and career. Her heartfelt words made me, a “nice, white person,” stop and think deeply as I read about her experiences.

Austin Channing Brown is also the executive producer and host of the web series The Next Question. (Here is a very powerful episode featuring Austin and Brene Brown offering so many valuable insights.) 

You Tube and Instagram are two of the tools that are helping me think more critically about the world we live in.  Intentionally inviting people that don’t look like me into my life has enriched me and opened my eyes in so many ways. Social media has made it easy to invite inspiring Black voices into my life.  During #sharethemicnow on Instagram, white influencers introduced us to wonderful Black authors and speakers. Soon after, the art/craft community on Instagram amplified Black voices during #passthebrushart by partnering well-known white artists and crafters with very talented Black artists and crafters. I really enjoyed meeting so many Black creatives, virtually visiting their art/craft studios, and listening to their heartfelt thoughts. I feel so grateful to learn from so many diverse Black voices. My Instagram feed has a whole ‘new look’ now and it’s so nice to be welcomed into the lives of a diverse group of Black women on Instagram stories each day. Truly a joy!

I do not pretend to know the pain that our Black and BIPOC American citizens face and live with each and every day. Yet, I feel a powerful tug on my heartstrings to become an ally and to amplify their voices. They are already helping me grow as a person and helping me gain new insights every day. My husband and I have been having important conversations about history, the nightly news, and racism in our country. My heart is open to discuss all that I am learning about anti-racism. Becoming comfortable with honest conversations about racial injustice is an important part of my new growth.

If you would like to come along on this journey with me, you can find inspiring, new You Tube links on the Inspiration page of our blog. Check back often because I will continue to add more links. I feel a great deal of HOPE for this moment and our future. In America, we show courage when we face huge challenges. We must be brave for today’s children and their futures! I’m in this for the long walk…

There is a different energy in the garden this summer…

“We are the flowers of one garden.”

New growth is happening here!

 

♥ ♥ ♥

Hope you will share your thoughts with us!

Please share any books that are helping you grow, too.

I’ll be back very soon with the story of

this summer’s garden project!

Stay safe! Stay healthy!

 

Live a diverse life!

♡ Dawn

 

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Blank Pages…

Hi Friends!

Warm greetings from the wintery Midwest! Tiny snowflakes are dancing down as I write. A long string of cloudy days has us all dreaming of sunshine here! The first four weeks of the new year have flown by quickly.

Quiet moments of stillness during January often found me daydreaming…

As we rang in the New Year, I was really looking forward to my third year of bullet journaling and couldn’t wait to carefully unwrap a brand new Rhodia dot grid journal! Keeping a Self-Care Journal has been such a positive, inspiring way to create purposeful days over the past two years. Just a few quiet moments each evening spent reflecting on the day have taught me so many important lessons! My Self-Care Journal has become a powerful teacher, a place to set new goals, celebrate special moments, count my blessings, and track my healthy habits.

The time spent setting up my bullet journal each month always feels like a special, little gift ~ to me, from me! This January, however, felt very different. The blank, dot grid pages waited patiently while I relished several different creative thoughts…

Hmmm…  Was it procrastination or laziness that slowed me down this January? Not at all! I truly treasure the time I spend on my Self-Care Journal. So, why were the pages in my journal blank during the first half of January?

Those blank pages were cherished, day after day, while I relished the possibilities!

I was simply taking the time to honor my ‘word’ for this year. 🙂

For each of the past eight years, I have focused on a ‘word.’ Throughout our home, there are visible reminders of each word. Last Summer, I created Word Stones for my Friendship Garden to carry this mindfulness practice into the garden, too! 🙂

 

It feels so lovely to have a new ‘word’ to guide me this year…

2020 ~ savor

This Spring, I can’t wait to add a brand new ‘word’ to my Friendship Garden. 🙂

 

It felt simply luxurious to take extra time to savor several creative thoughts before beginning this year’s bullet journal. In my past two journals, I added bright color to each page. Using colorful markers kept me motivated all year long. Perhaps this year, it would be fun to try a more minimalist journaling style? Lately, I’ve been inspired by black and white pages, with pale, gray, drop shadows. It might be fun to create a completely new look in my 2020 journal! Oh, the possibilities! Day after day, I delighted in my creative thoughts until it felt just right to put pen to paper.

My 2020 Self-Care Journal will feature monthly spreads with soft colors and habit trackers in black and white, with the palest gray lines to chart my progress. Handlettered quotations will keep me inspired throughout the year. It felt like such a blessing to intentionally slow down and take time to savor the creative possibilities!

I’m so grateful that the ‘word’ savor chose me this year! It will be the perfect reminder to slow down a bit and take the time to fully appreciate the special moments sprinkled throughout each busy day. I have already noticed subtle changes! At a recent WW Lifetime gathering, we each created a Mind Map for the new year. I wrote savor in the center of my map, and set my intentions to savor time for Self-Care, Family, Creativity, Growth, and time in Nature. This Mind Map will be a visible reminder to slow down a bit and savor the joyful, meaningful moments in each and every day. 🙂

In January, one of the inspiring books I read was Seeking Slow, by Melanie Barnes. The author offers so many thoughtful ideas for living a slower life focusing on the simple pleasures in each day. I took notes as I read and look forward to making time to savor her ideas throughout the year.

I have been noticing and honoring the “slow moments” in my days ~ listening to music, writing in my journal, brewing a cup of herbal tea, watching the snowflakes fall, writing a long letter, and walking in nature. Melanie Barnes has also inspired me to create a “Quiet Corner” ~ a calm, relaxing place to savor at home. Now there is a small space for Yoga practice in a corner of our living room. I have been taking time to enjoy the plants blooming in our sunny dining room, noticing the vibrant Christmas Cactus blossoms, the pale pink Cyclamen blossoms, and the fragrant Lavender blossoms. It all feels very comforting and healing!

My blank pages are slowly filling up…

as I savor the quiet moments tucked into the corners of my days.

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit today!

What things have you been doing to nourish your heart and soul?

Do you have a special goal or ‘word’ to guide you through the new year?

What have you been reading lately?

Hope you will share with us…

 

Warm, cozy hugs!

♡ Dawn

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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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A New Rhythm

Hi Friends!

Brrrrr! The Polar Vortex arrived overnight bringing dangerous, record-breaking cold to the Midwest. We woke up to temperatures of -25 F (-31.6 C) with windchill temperatures of -50 F (-45.6 C). The loud sounds of ‘Frost Quakes’ can be heard as our soil reacts to the rapid temperature change. Today we are only four degrees warmer than Antarctica! 

Most schools here are closed today, mail delivery has been cancelled, and many people have decided to spend the day at home. We are very grateful for those who brave the Arctic temperatures to provide vital services. Friends and neighbors have been checking in to see if anyone needs help. Each time I peek out the window, I am so grateful for the heavy blanket of snow that is protecting my garden as it sleeps. Wherever you are today, we hope you are safe and warm!

Bright sunshine is streaming through the lace curtains in our dining room as I write. Pumpkin muffins are in the oven and a pot of tea is brewing. Gusty, snowy days are just perfect for writing heartwarming letters to friends. I’m so glad that you stopped to visit today! Pour yourself a cup of tea, cocoa, or coffee. Let’s catch up a bit…

The month of January has flown by very quickly this year. Such a busy time here! My dear, sweet parents are staying with us in the midst of their Big Move from Arizona back home to Illinois. Mom and Dad are very eager to settle into an easier lifestyle in their apartment in a brand new Senior Living community. They can’t wait to unpack all of their boxes as we all work together to create their new home! There have been some very disappointing delays in recent weeks. So, we continue to wait and wait and wait for ‘move-in’ day to be announced.

As we wait, oh, the sweet family times we have been sharing! Reminiscing and sharing childhood stories adds so much warmth and humor to our days. I love hearing so many of these family stories for the first time! 🙂 Mom has filled a big ‘Basket of Sunshine’ with some of her favorite things to brighten her days. Dad has been busy researching his favorite hobbies online and doing a few little repairs around the house. So many treasured memories of all the home restoration projects that Mom and Dad helped me with over thirty years ago, when I became a homeowner, come flooding back. Oh, the stories this little house could tell! (We just shared our 1988 memories of working together with a heat tool to strip paint from the kitchen cabinets, as snowflakes were drifting in through the open window. 🙂 ) Watching the the U.S. and European Figure Skating championships together over the weekend brought back warm memories of all the Figure Skating we watched together in my childhood. Yes, our cozy, little bungalow feels cozier than ever right now.

There is a new rhythm to my life now. The coming years will be extra busy as I have the honor of helping my parents. My special ‘word’ for the new year found me a few weeks ago. Throughout the year, I will focus on being more intentional about the decisions I make. My time is more limited now, so careful attention to the most important things will help to keep my health, our marriage, our family life, my creative passions, dear friendships, and our little home and garden thriving. This new rhythm feels exhilarating! It invites so many opportunities to learn and grow…

This month, I eagerly began my 2019 Self-Care bullet journal. It was a wonderful feeling to unwrap a brand new Rhodia dot grid journal filled with 160 pages of luscious, ivory, Clairefontaine paper from France. (J’adore anything French! I left a piece of my heart there on my very first visit.)

My Self-Care journal is the perfect place to record and track healthy habits. It’s interesting to notice patterns over time in my Sleep Log, Workout Log, and trackers for daily Hydration, Step Counts, Creative Time, and Time in Nature. My monthly Gratitude Log continues to be my most important journal page! Nightly reflection keeps me mindful of my Self-Care.

This year, I will be more intentional about setting personal goals. In January, I created a new monthly page entitled Reasons to Be Proud. It feels like a nice addition as I reflect on my days. My Self-Care journal has become a personal space where I can get to know myself better. I only spend about ten minutes each night with my bullet journal. Yet it always feels like a luxurious a little ‘gift’ to wrap up my days with mindful reflection!

I’ve been savoring a wonderful book, The Bullet Journal Method, by Ryder Carroll, the creator of this style of journaling. It’s so inspiring to explore all of the possibilities of this quiet, analog journaling process that requires only a simple notebook and a pen. Over the past two years, I have personally stayed very motivated by using a few art supplies in my bullet journals. The chance to play with colorful inks, brush lettering, stencils, and a bit of doodling nourishes my creative heart every day when I open my journal. My 2019 BuJo will continue to be a very important Self-Care tool as I grow more intentional and spend more of my time on what truly matters. Doesn’t it sound inviting to actually spend more time on fewer things? It’s a lofty goal for someone whose ‘Renaissance’ (my ‘R’ word for Retirement) is filled with so many interests and plans!

As we tie the ribbons on January, I’m celebrating two wonderful Artist Dates that I intentionally made time for on my busy calendar. I spent an entire day with my crafty, creative ‘tribe’ at a papercrafting Crop Day. It felt so good to play with stamps and watercolors as I worked on a few Valentine projects. We all chatted about important things, like ink and paper, as we worked together on our own creations. 🙂 Last weekend, I attended a fun Watercolor workshop, where we sketched and painted a Cozy Winter Cottage nestled in the woods. I tucked my artwork into a rustic wooden frame to display in my little Paper Garden studio. It’s a sweet reminder to be intentional about the choices I make as I discover this new rhythm in life!

What new things have you been doing in January?

Do you make resolutions or choose a ‘word’ for the New Year?

How is the weather in your little corner of the world?

Hope you’ll share with us…

 

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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Nourish… to Flourish!

Nourish

Hi Friends!

For the past year, I have quietly been working each day on a very special gift ~ to me… from me. In celebration of my birthday last week, it feels like the perfect time to untie the ribbons and share this gift of love!

I have been learning to live fully by nourishing my heart, soul, and body in so many exciting ways. My ‘word’ for this year is nourish and this little word has guided me in many new directions.

 

I have been slowly working my way through It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again by Julia Cameron. Writing Morning Pages, going on Artist Dates, taking Solo Walks, and Writing Memoir have all helped to nourish my creative heart and soul.

Gathering together with other creative souls in a lovely, international, online book club has helped me to stay accountable and moving forward. Using Julia Cameron’s tools has nurtured me each step of the way.  Making creative time a priority has helped me to flourish and grow in countless ways. In fact, I’m looking forward to rereading and continuing to work through the tasks in this wonderful book again in 2018. I’m enjoying writing my memoir immensely! It has been such a gift to make time to explore my passion for creativity. It’s only the beginning…

Big changes happened in my perennial and herb gardens throughout the past year. Now that Winter has arrived in the Midwest, it’s such fun to look back through my Garden Joys journal and reflect on all of the hard work and changes…

This has been the first time in thirty years of nurturing my garden that I have ever kept a garden journal throughout the entire season. Experimenting with bullet-style journaling and using a few art supplies definitely nourished my creative soul! I have made so many changes as I ‘right-sized’ my garden beds… and I love the new look. “Less is more” has become my new mantra this year. Less weeding means more time for other creative passions! It’s only the beginning…

♥♥♥

All year long, I have also been nourishing my body and building a healthy relationship with food. Slowly, ever-so-slowly, I have ‘right-sized’ myself to a healthy weight (set by my doctor). It has been my most important birthday gift ever!  Although I have tried many times on my own over the years, it was always a struggle.

However this time, it feels very different… and I am singing the praises of Weight Watchers! With the help of Weight Watchers, I found the guidance and support that I needed. It was a little bit hard… but not too hard! (This post is not sponsored by Weight Watchers in any way. I just wanted to share…) 

Using the Weight Watchers app, I learned to be mindful of everything that I am eating. Although I had been making healthy food choices, portion control was a problem in the past. Now I use the Weight Watchers app to track each food and the amount I am eating. No food is off limits. Instead Weight Watchers has determined a Smart Points value for each food based upon its calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein. I know my daily Smart Points budget and am able to make smart choices throughout each day. Additional Weekly Smart Points make it possible to enjoy those special celebrations that life brings.

In addition to tracking all of my meals and snacks, the other thing that truly made a difference for me is attending my weekly Weight Watchers meeting. I always think of it as a special gift that I am giving myself ~ a gift of time for my health. I faithfully go every Thursday morning. On the rare Thursdays that I am out of town, I make sure to find a Tuesday meeting or a Wednesday meeting instead. Gathering together as a community each week is a great time to share tips, recipes, encouragement, and inspiration with one another. I have made so many new friends along the way. At every meeting, Karen shares her knowledge and experience, while Fay shares kindness and encouragement as I step on the scale (privately and discreetly).

Throughout the year, I have continued my usual, active lifestyle. Taking walks in nature, working in the garden, and mowing the lawn helped me stay active during the warm weather. During cold weather, walking indoors at the mall has been a great way to ‘walk and talk’ with my husband or dear friends. It is my intention to make the Weight Watchers plan work with my usual lifestyle, so that I can continue doing what works for me long term.

Slowly, ever-so-slowly, I began to see and feel the results. My average loss was about one pound each week, although sometimes there was a plateau or even a small weight gain. Fay was especially encouraging at those times.

Little-by-little, I began to ‘right size’ my wardrobe, too. It has been fun to shop in different stores and discover my true style. Although everything in my closet is new, there aren’t too many things now. I have intentionally left plenty of ‘white space’ in my tiny closet. It makes my heart smile each time I open the door! It has felt so good to donate all of my clothing and share my very favorite clothes with friends. Hopefully, they will feel like warm hugs to everyone who wears them!

Along with all of the health benefits, there were also tiny, tangible bits of ‘bling’ from Weight Watchers along my journey. These meaningful charms celebrate: My first four weeks of meetings, 5% of my body weight, Making time for myself, 10% of my body weight, Creating a Vision (with themes: nurture, explore, create, imagine, commit, transform, embrace,…), Weight loss, Reaching my goal weight, Becoming a Lifetime member, and W.W. Freestyle.

At our weekly meeting, we celebrate each time someone receives a new charm. It is a lovely time of encouragement, honoring the huge commitment that it takes!

It felt so wonderful to celebrate with this tiny, golden key just before my birthday. It represents having reached my healthy weight goal, then learning for six weeks how to stop losing weight and maintain my healthy weight. This key is a Lifetime membership to Weight Watchers. (Yay! I no longer have to pay for the eTools and Meetings! 🙂 ) Lifetime Members must stay within two pounds of our goal weight or begin paying again. This is great motivation to maintain my weight. I’d much rather save my money for other things! 🙂 

I realize that the most difficult part of my journey lies ahead ~ the forever part. (Statistics show that with any weight loss plan, 85% of people regain the weight within two years. Knowing this, makes me even more determined to nourish myself in healthy ways!)

Over the past year, I have built a solid foundation of tools that work for me. I intend to continue tracking all of the foods that I eat and attending weekly meetings. With plenty of guidance from Weight Watchers, now I am learning how to eat a few more Smart Points each day without gaining weight. It feels like an exciting, new beginning…

Just last week, Weight Watchers introduced a new plan that gives us more freedom and flexibility with our Smart Points. For anyone struggling with weight issues, this is an exciting time to consider getting healthy and living more fully.

Now I’m creating a special Self Care (bullet-style) journal to plan and document this new chapter in my journey. It will help me to reach my new goals for activity during the winter months, including walking indoors, Zumba, Barre workouts, and a return to my beloved Yoga practice. I’m really looking forward to the challenge!

For me, this journey has been so much more than weight loss.

It is also about what I have gained during the past year…

♥  a sense of empowerment (“I can do this!”)

  dedicated time for self care, self kindness, and creativity

  patience with myself  (important things can take longer than expected)

  strategies that I know will work  (tracking my foods + attending meetings + an active lifestyle)

  lots of new friends along the way  (Each one is a unique part of my W.W. journey.)

I have been continuously blessed with the love and support of my dear husband, my wonderful family, and encouraging friends. I know they will continue to support me as I flourish in new ways!  Huge hugs, you guys!!

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today

as I untied the ribbons on this very special gift…

from me… to me!

My birthday cake (chocolate peppermint, a small piece)

tasted extra sweet this year!

 

Nurture yourself each day!

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chatting By the Garden Gate ~ July

Hi Friends!

The birds are singing sweetly, the cicadas are even louder,

the mosquitoes are biting,

and late afternoon rainstorms have been blowing across the plains.

It’s July in the Midwest… 

and I’ve been spending lots of time in the garden!

♥♥♥

Most days, this little sign on our front porch lets visitors know where to find me.  🙂

There have been more big changes,

as I work hard toward my goal to ‘right-size’ my cottage perennial gardens,

inspired by this wonderful book by Kerry Ann Mendez.

Throughout this busy month, I’ve also been doing a bit of garden memory-keeping,

bullet-style, in my Garden Journal.

In our area, we have had over seven inches (18 cm.) of rain so far this month.

Northern Illinois has had twice as much rainfall and rivers there are overflowing their banks.

Our thoughts are with everyone experiencing the terrible, widespread flooding.

Unfortunately, heavy thunderstorms are expected again tonight.

 

Fortunately, we have had plenty of dry, sunny days, too…

Last year, I dug out a huge bed of Daylilies to create a special History Garden

along the length of our garage.

It is filled with favorite perennials that were growing in this garden 30 years ago,

when I moved here and learned to garden.

This month, I dug again for several days

to remove another large patch of orange Daylilies. 

Of course, I waited until they were finished blooming!  🙂

After removing and composting this patch of Daylilies,

now we can fully enjoy the blossoms in the History Garden!

I reused the antique bricks that I rescued

when we removed a stone planter in the front yard this spring.

It made sense to use the oldest bricks to create a simple garden path

past the oldest perennials in our garden!

As I pondered what to plant along the path (left side in photo),

it dawned on me that the same principles

that I use in my artwork would be perfect in the garden, too.

So, I transplanted Hostas and Artemisia to create a limited color palette

and pattern repetition from nearby garden beds.

Digging and moving perennials around in the garden feels very much like

‘watercoloring’ with real flowers!

                          Finally, I planted grass seed in the bare soil in the foreground.

Just this week, it felt so wonderful to complete another big gardening goal!

Now I can enjoy a full view of the History Garden

while I spend time in my Herb & Tea Garden,

the true ‘heart of my garden,’

surrounded by the white, picket fence.  🙂

Just wondering… 

What are your favorite and least favorite garden tasks?

My very favorite:

I just love deadheading the spent blossoms,

harvesting herbs, cutting bouquets of flowers,

and brewing a cup of homegrown herbal tea!

My least favorite:

I’m constantly battling with Creeping Charlie (ground ivy),

and Bishop’s Weed as they spread through my garden.

Digging up Daylilies is just exhausting. So glad that task is finished!

 

♥♥♥

Heartfelt thanks for chatting by the garden gate with us today.

Keep blooming and growing each day this summer!

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  We just returned from a wonderful, little adventure! ♥♥ Can’t wait to share it with you very soon!

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Hello Summer!

Hi Friends!

Early mornings in our Midwest garden fill my heart with both comfort and joy! Those relaxing busy hours spent garden-keeping have been the perfect time to watch my garden dreams materialize. It’s so exciting to see all of the changes in the garden!

Throughout last Summer and Fall, I worked diligently to ‘right-size’ my large perennial gardens. Early this Spring, we removed two more perennial beds and two bushes from the front yard, replacing them with grass. We just love our new, simplified front yard!

We are not finished making changes yet. The large Magnolia bed, Front Porch bed, and Side Porch bed continue to keep me very busy. This Summer I am pondering ways to ‘right-size’ these garden beds next. The guidance (and courage!) offered by garden author Kerry Ann Mendez, in her book The Right-Size Flower Garden, continue to inspire me to make changes throughout my garden.

Last Fall, I removed a large Cutting Garden near the deck, ‘rescuing’ and transplanting several of my favorite, old-fashioned perennials to the white, picket fence border of my Herb & Tea garden. Creating garden ‘maps’ last Fall proved to be one of my most useful garden ‘tools.’  Several times this Spring, I carried the ‘map’ out to my Herb & Tea garden as the plants emerged. It has been such a joy to watch all of the changes come to life! I will continue to edit my garden ‘maps’ as I move plants around and make new additions. Recently, I added Lime Basil and Cinnamon Basil to the herb bed. 🙂

Last Summer I also worked extremely hard digging up a huge bed of Daylilies, providing space along our garage to create a new History Garden bed. In the Fall, I transplanted several old-fashioned perennials that were already growing here thirty years ago, when I moved here and learned to garden. To me, these plants are true treasures! Again the garden ‘map’ has been so helpful. As the plants bloom, I will fill in the missing colors on the ‘map’ using watercolors. I’m still saving a spot for one new perennial from my ‘Wish List.’  🙂

This year, my new Garden Joys’ journal has also become a very helpful tool as I document the changes in our garden. I’m noting the bloom times of the perennials in their new beds, hoping to provide continuous color throughout the garden.

Just looking back over all of the changes so far has been a joy!

It makes the time spent on this bullet-style garden journal feel so worthwhile.

I’m never alone in the garden…

The robins, cardinals, wrens, bees, butterflies,

squirrels, and bunnies are welcome guests.

It’s such a joy to watch the mother wren flying into the Herb & Tea Garden birdhouse

to care for the eggs in her nest!

I am always happiest when I am working in my Herb & Tea Garden.

Just stepping through the garden gate fills me with sweet memories.

It truly is the ‘heart’ of my garden ~ built with love!

We have our garden challenges this year, as well.

There is a very hungry groundhog in residence who has devoured

all of the Mums and the patches of Black-eyed Susans throughout the garden!

He (oops!) She now has five young groundhogs who are nibbling everything.

They have been climbing through the Herb & Tea Garden fence

and helping themselves to Oregano, too.

Although they really are cute…

 I do wish our groundhogs would develop a healthy appetite for weeds, instead.

(We have more than enough weeds to share!)

The first two weeks of June were extremely dry, but recently we have had lots of rain.

So, garden-keeping has kept me extra-busy this week.

The wet soil has made weeding so much easier.

I just keep weeding, weeding, weeding…

and picking pretty bouquets

of Summer blossoms. 🙂

 

What’s happening in your garden?

What challenges do you have in the garden?

What kind of blossoms have you been cutting for bouquets?

Hope you will share…

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

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