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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save

Advertisements

‘Perennials’ in Bloom

Hi Friends!

The month of May has been a whirlwind of activity here, both in and out of the garden. All month long, however, a certain word has been on my mind. Each time I think of this word, it just lifts my spirits and makes me smile!

I first read this ‘new’ word, in a place where I always find wonderful inspiration ~ on Susan Branch’s blog! Take a peek at this interesting quote from Susan…

We are definitely Perennials!

Just saying the word makes me so happy!

The delicate blossoms of Cranesbill Geranium, Lilies of the Valley, Daisies, Allium, and Spirea add color to the garden in mid to late May.

We are each unique, but are kindred spirits in so many ways!

Bee on Cranesbill Geranium blossom

Perennial Cranesbill Geranium

Perennials are always as ‘busy as bees’ learning new things and sharing what we learn.

We are curious, peace loving, patriotic, and try to make a difference in our world.

Traveling, reading, finding mentors, and taking classes are just some of the ways we learn.

I love to walk through the garden each morning to fill a stoneware crock, pitcher, or Mason jar with a simple bouquet of Peonies for our front porch.

We try to add beauty to our world every day.

That’s just what Perennials do!

We pick a bouquet, write a letter, create art, bake cookies,

and share our gifts of handmade, homegrown kindness.

We seek out beauty wherever we roam ~ on every walk and down every garden path.

Floral wishes for a very special anniversary!  (All supplies by Papertrey Ink)

Perennials love to celebrate life’s special moments!

Today my parents are celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary! ♥♥ All month long, family and friends have joined together for a card monsoon. 🙂 We have been sending lots of special anniversary cards across the miles. Each day when my parents walked to their mailbox, they were surprised to discover more happy wishes! They have been bubbling over with joy throughout the month of May. Tonight they are celebrating with friends!  🙂

Clematis climbs high on our arbor

Perennials work hard toward our goals and reach new heights.

Since last September, I have been working very hard to reach

an important, personal goal.  I’m s-l-o-w-l-y getting closer to my goal!  🙂

Dandelion seed head

When life gives us ‘weeds,’

Perennials whisper, “Take it one day at a time.”

We unfurl our petals slowly… and one day, we are suddenly in full bloom!

This Columbine grew through a tiny crack in our driveway. I don’t have the heart to pull it out. What an inspiring reminder of the power of determination!

Perennials can often overcome challenges!

“We can do hard things!” was a daily reminder in our second grade classroom.

(Perennials can be any age at all!)  🙂

Susan Branch’s newest book is filled with her wonderful, hand lettered quotations and beautiful, watercolored illustrations.

Perennials are grateful for the small moments that make each day blossom!

On a recent morning, I picked a small bouquet of flowers,

brewed a pot of tea,

and read on the front porch, while listening to the birdsong in the garden.

My heart was filled with gratitude for these simple pleasures… and I smiled all day long!

♥♥♥

With heartfelt thanks to Susan Branch for helping me to discover that I am a Perennial.

(It’s so much sweeter than being a Baby Boomer!)  🙂

Perhaps you are a Perennial, too….

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  I wonder if I will ever grow into a Wildflower??  🙂

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Always Remember

Hi Friends,

Today was a blue sky, warm, sunny day ~

the kind of day that beckoned us to squeeze in a long walk to a meaningful place.

We both needed to reflect and remember.

Our destination was the “Flags of Honor” display in our favorite park. This Memorial  Day weekend, volunteers from the True Patriots Care organization installed 300 American flags in remembrance of the 300 Illinois servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives since September 11, 2001 to protect our many freedoms.

We walked slowly up and down the rows of flags waving wildly in the breeze. Stopping at each flag, we read the name tag, listing each hero’s name, branch of service, age, and hometown. I was searching for one special name ~ a student who attended the school where I taught. I look for his name whenever we visit a Veterans’ Memorial. I wondered who else might have come this weekend to search for Christopher’s name. He is always remembered and honored, quietly, by his family, friends, and all who knew him.

As we stood beneath the branches of a beautiful gingko tree

gazing upon those 300 flags,

we thought of all of those Gold Star families

whose fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, husbands, and wives

made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us.

We must always remember to honor them…

and keep their spirit alive.

Next we walked across the park to Veterans’ Square,

where our Memorial Day parade had ended just a few hours earlier.

Small, white crosses, with engraved, brass nameplates

honored each of the local heroes who died defending our freedom.

This Memorial Day would have been President John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday.

We paused to honor all of these men and women

in a very simple, yet meaningful way.

I chose a soldier who served in Korea (like my dad)

and my husband chose a soldier who served in World War II (like his dad).

We each laid a long stemmed, red rose against their crosses

as a small token of our gratitude

for their brave service and great sacrifice

to preserve our way of life in America.

We must always remember…

In Remembrance,

♡ Dawn

     ☆ So grateful to the volunteers from True Patriots Care

who donate their time, throughout the Midwest,

to honor our troops, veterans, and first responders.

Save

Save

Save

Cozy Greetings!

img_1254

Hi Friends,

Merry Christmas Eve!  Happy Hanukkah!  Just popping in to wish everyone a wonderful holiday as you celebrate in your own special ways. We are delighted to have family visiting us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for a cozy, old-fashioned Christmas here at home. Faraway family will join us via Skype ~ so we can all be together both days!

img_1252

Wishing all of our dear friends and lovely blog friends a merry, little Christmas…

from the bottom of my heart!

img_1251

May your Christmas be seasoned with love

and your New Year be filled

with the blessings of

good health, dear family, and treasured friendships!

img_1253

Where are you celebrating the holidays this year?

Cherish the small moments!

Warm, cozy hugs!

♡ Dawn

Save

Save

Warm at Heart

warmatheart4

Hi Friends!

Brrrrr! December has been so cold and snowy here in the Midwest. We have already shoveled 15.6 inches (39.6 cm) of snow at our house the past three weekends, with more snow on the way tonight. Arctic temperatures have kept us in the deep freeze.

Through it all, I have felt warm at heart,

while celebrating my December birthday with family and friends!

(Perhaps it is all those birthday candles! 🙂 )

Braving the cold or snow has always been part of my birthday fun!

Bundle up and come along…

dscn8919

A new annual birthday tradition began this year

with a wonderful day at the German Christmas Market.

A dear friend and I spent the afternoon visiting the Christkindlmarket at Naper Settlement.

We layered on warm sweaters, long underwear, thick socks, boots,

scarves, hats, and our warmest gloves for our adventure.

dscn8932

As we explored the outdoor market,

precious memories of my visits to the Karlsruher Christkindlesmarkt,

in southwest Germany, warmed my heart.

The sounds of Christmas music and the smells of Bratwurst,

Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes),

and Cinnamon Roasted Almonds filled the air.

dscn8924

Handblown German glass ornaments are one of my favorite memories of

Christmas in Germany.

Every Christmas, I hang a beautiful German glass ornament in our dining room window

as a reminder of that special Christmas visit.

dscn8925

We stood admiring these Santas, hand-carved and painted in Russia,

until our fingers and toes felt numb.

We were just fascinated as the shopkeeper explained their intricate designs.

dscn8926

Traditional German Nutcrackers and Incense Smokers

brought a touch of Germany to the Midwest.

We saw German sweets of all kinds, handmade pottery from Poland,

nativity scenes hand-carved in Bethlehem,

German steins, hats, teas, and Lebkuchen (gingerbread).

dscn8930

What a delight to visit the same Christmas store that I first visited in medieval Rothenburg!

After admiring the intricate, wooden Christmas Pyramids,

Advent calendars, and glass ornaments,

I knew exactly what I wanted to bring home as a memory of our day together.

dscn8959

I chose candle clips and candles for our Christmas tree,

just like the ones I brought home from my Christmas in Germany so long ago.

Those special memories always warm my heart!

dscn8936

It is the Christkind (Christ child) who brings the Christmas gifts

to children in many parts of Germany.

She is a young girl, with long blond curls, a white and gold gown,

a golden crown, and the wings of an angel.

During Advent, the children write letters to the Christkind,

sprinkle them with sugar,

and leave them on the windowsill.

On December 24th, German parents bring in the Christmas tree,

 decorate it with colorful ornaments, and clip candles onto the branches.

They leave the window open just a bit for the Christkind angel…

and close the living room door.

It warms my heart to remember my German family gathered around the table

enjoying a wonderful Raclette dinner on Heilige Nacht (Christmas Eve).

As we laughed and talked, we suddenly heard the sound of a little bell ringing.

The children jumped for joy,

knowing that the Christkind had flown in through the window,

put all the gifts under the tree, lit the candles,

rang her bell, and flown away!

(I was just as excited as the children! 🙂 )

We all went into the living room, and held hands in a circle around the Christmas tree.

The warm memories still bring tears to my eyes…

Together we sang Stille Nacht in German (I had packed a little paper with the lyrics.)

and everyone surprised me by singing Jingle Bells in English.

The candles on the tree were quickly blown out, so that we could open our gifts.

It was a night I will treasure forever!

gluhwein

At the Naper Settlement Christkindlmarket, we toasted my birthday

with hot Gluhwein and warm, Bavarian pretzels!

It was an extra treat to meet a friendly woman at our table,

who is an artist from our town and a kindred spirit.

Warmed by the Gluhwein, we hurried through the Christkindlmarket one more time

in late afternoon cold, and headed for home.

What a heartwarming way to celebrate with a dear friend!

♥♥♥

My husband and I have a wonderful tradition of celebrating my birthday together

by making memories in a small town,

all decked out for Christmas.

For this birthday, I chose the pretty, little town of Geneva, along the Fox River.

dscn8941

It was another frigid morning as we drove west,

singing along with the Christmas songs on the radio.

As we quickly walked hand-in-hand along the main street,

we stopped to visit the all of the festive shops in the beautiful, old houses.

dscn8942

The Arctic temperatures kept most of the holiday shoppers away on that Saturday.

So, we soaked in all of the quiet, friendly, holiday charm…

warm at heart.

dscn8943

December is such a wonderful time of year to explore Geneva.

dscn8955

Families braved the cold, waiting in line to visit with Santa Claus

and snuggling under blankets for carriage rides through town.

dscn8947

We lingered in the Geneva Antique Market,

where vintage Christmas decorations filled every booth.

vintagechristmas

dscn8945

After visiting all of my favorite places in Geneva, we loaded our packages into our ‘sleigh’

and headed home, as snowflakes began to fall…

warm at heart!

♥♥♥

Heartfelt thanks dear family, friends, and blog friends for all of the

cards, songs, visits, calls, kindness, gifts, and birthday hugs.

My heart is truly warmed

and overflowing with blessings!

I hope you are warm and cozy wherever you are this weekend! ♥♥

Bring on the twinkle!

♡ Dawn

19. December ~ Edited to add…     My heart is breaking as the news reaches us of today’s  attack at the Christmas Market in Berlin. Our prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives in the attack, all of those who suffered injuries, and the first responders who rushed in to help. I add my voice to prayers for peace in our wounded world.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Call of the Drum…

callofthedrum

I can still hear the drums.

My heart will beat with the drums forever…

Hi Friends!

We recently returned from a wonderful visit with loved ones in Arizona.  Whether we are hiking in the Tonto National Forest or just walking through the neighborhood, we always admire Red Mountain for its distinctive shape and gorgeous color.

DSCN6264

Red Mountain stands on land owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Over the years, we have traveled through the reservation land many, many times. A major road, using the dry bed of the Salt River, passes right through the vast Indian reservation. This road is only closed when heavy rains turn it back into a fast-moving river.

This time, we felt so fortunate to spend a very special day on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa reservation!

dscn8638

We couldn’t wait to attend our very first PowWow!  We arrived early and could hear the call of the drum as we walked across the grassy field. The beautiful, stirring sounds of a Drum circle welcomed us.

dscn8645

We stood transfixed as we listened to the music of the drummers sitting in a tight circle around the ceremonial drum. The men were playing the drum and singing, while their wives and children sat in another circle around them. Well-known Host Drums traveled a great distance to perform at this Pow Wow. Black Bear (Quebec, Canada), Northern Cree (Alberta, Canada), Omaha White Tail (Nebraska), and Southern Thunder (Oklahoma) played throughout the two-day event.

dscn8802

Traditionally, Pow Wows gather Native American people together as a celebration of American Indian culture. It is a powerful way of preserving the rich heritage of the American Indian people. It is a time of dancing, singing, renewing old friendships, and making new friends. The Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow shares Native American Arts and Crafts and traditional foods. Everyone is welcome!

dscn8651

Groups of Gourd Dancers performed throughout the morning. The soul-stirring music brought together people from tribes across North America.  Drums and Singers are very important people in Native American culture. For without them, there would be no dancing. Their songs can be religious, for war, and social. At a Pow Wow, most of the songs are social, in nature.

dscn8652

As we watched the Gourd Dancers, my husband noticed that this dancer’s beaded headband showed all of his Vietnam War medals. Throughout our history, Native Americans have served in our Armed Forces in greater percentages than any other ethnic group. They have served our country with honor in every major conflict for over 200 years. The service, dedication, and patriotism of our Native American veterans should be honored by all Americans.

frybread

After a hot morning in the bright, desert sun, it was time to find more water and taste some traditional American Indian foods. We watched as they prepared our Frybread and topped it with cinnamon and sugar. My husband also ate Frybread filled with mutton and chili peppers. We enjoyed our picnic lunch with a friendly local who told us more about the Pow Wow. The hot sun, the sound of the drums and singing, and the traditional food made memories we will cherish.

dscn8686

As the time drew near for the Grand Entry, we walked around admiring the traditional dress. It was fascinating to watch the dancers put on layer upon layer of brightly-colored fabric, intricate beadwork, moccasins with bells, beautiful jewelry, and immense feather adornments. I just couldn’t resist asking permission to take photos.

soproud

Spectacular, from both the front and back, the friendly dancers posed with pride. I was very interested to learn the name of their tribe and which part of the United States they traveled from for this special gathering.

dscn8684

By pure luck, we found ourselves standing at the exact place where the Grand Entry would begin. My camera and I were thrilled!!  🙂 It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see all of the dancers from only an few feet way. We admired their gorgeous, traditional clothing up close as they slowly walked by. It was an experience I will treasure forever, as 500 dancers of all ages moved to the beat of the Drum, ready to enter the arena. Their serene, serious faces told us that this was a very important experience for them, as well.

dscn8717

During the Grand Entry into the arena, everyone stands while the flags are carried in: the U.S. flag, Tribal flags, the P.O.W. flag, and the Eagle Staffs of all of the Indian Nations present at the Pow Wow. The flags are usually carried by veterans. Despite the horrific treatment received from our country, Native Americans hold the U.S. flag in an honored position.

dscn8681

The U.S. flag holds two special meanings for the American Indians. It is a way to remember all of their ancestors who fought against this country long ago. It also symbolizes the United States and the important role of Native Americans in our country. The U.S. flag also honors all of the Native Americans who have bravely fought for this country.

dscn8734

As the Grand Entry begins, the veterans carrying the flags are followed by the Tribal Chiefs, Princesses, and Elders. The men dancers are always next in line, followed by the women dancers.

dscn8740

The women Jingle Dancers wear a beautiful Jingle Dress (or Prayer Dress). Long ago, the dress was seen in a dream, as an object to bring healing to the sick. The Chippewa people sew rows of bells encircling a colorful skirt.  The bells are so close together that they jingle and ring while dancing. The Jingle Dancers’ bells sound just like falling rain as they dance. It is so beautiful!

dscn8701

As the Drums play, singers from different tribes gather together to share traditional songs. Some of these songs are sung as ‘vocables,’ with no words, so that singers from all Indian Nations can join in, no matter their tribal language. These songs still hold deep  meaning to those who remember the original lyrics.

dscn8690

Dances have always played a very important role in American Indian life. Most of the dances at Pow Wows are social dances. Although dancing styles and clothing have changed over the years, the meaning of the dances has not. The Native American culture is a vibrant, ever-changing way of life!

dscn8773

Once all 500 dancers entered the arena that afternoon, a special Honor Song was sung to honor the flags and the veterans. After a prayer, the dancing continued. We found seats in the front row of the bleachers and were mesmerized by the colorful clothing and the beat of the Drum.

dscn8747

dscn8755

dscn8767

dscn8771

There were several huge Circle dances with all of the dancers moving in circles, like a coiling snake. Different Drum circles provided the music, while the dancers moved to the rhythm of the Drum.

dscn8786

It was so beautiful to see people from all generations, from the Tiny Tots (up to 4 years old) to the Golden Age (60+ years old) dancers sharing their long history and culture. The best dancers and Drum circles would be awarded prizes at the close of the two-day Pow Wow.

dancers

As the dancers moved in the hot sun all afternoon, their passion and dedication as they celebrated their culture truly moved me. Sitting in the hot sun took its toll on us, yet they were dancing in layer upon layer of cotton, deerskin, beads, and feathers. After we left, there would be another Grand Entry in the evening and another day of dancing and drumming on Sunday. What an unforgettable celebration!

A Pow Wow is such a wonderful way of bringing the past into the future!

tinytots

The Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow left such a powerful impression on my heart. I’m sure that the vivid colors and serene feelings of that day will inspire my artwork and writing always.

I can still hear the drums.

My heart will beat with the drums forever…

Enjoy the Grand Entry of the 30th Annual Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow…

(Video credit: rd47blog)

30th Annual Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow ~ Men’s Traditional dance                    

(Video credit:  rd47blog)

♥♥♥

Heartfelt thanks for always taking the time to visit and leave thoughtful comments on our blog.

Each time I count my blessings, I think of my dear family, friends, and blog friends!

img_1209

You inspire me to grow in so many creative ways!

Happy Thanksgiving!

♡ Dawn

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Kindred Spirits…

AfternoonTea

Hi Friends!

So many treasured moments to hold in our hearts forever!

Last week, a lovely group of kindred spirits gathered from across the Midwest

to enjoy a long-awaited, experience of a lifetime ~ Afternoon Tea with Susan Branch.

♥♥♥

For the past thirty years, Susan Branch‘s handlettered books, filled with lovely, watercolored illustrations have been such an inspiration in my life.  Our home and garden, our family traditions, our holiday celebrations, and most recently, our little blog, have soaked up the flavors of Susan’s creativity. Susan generously shares her gifts, time, and kindness with adoring readers from across the globe. She always shows us how much she appreciates her fans.

This summer, Susan and Joe are celebrating the publication of Susan’s newest book, Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams, already a New York Times Best Seller, by driving across the country to meet Susan’s devoted fans. Special events are planned in 23 different cities, as Susan visits small, independent bookstores across America.

Here in the Midwest, our excitement grew quickly, as tickets sold out and the big day drew near! Susan would be the celebrated guest at an Afternoon Tea in her honor, where she would speak, answer questions, and sign books for her fans (lovingly known as her Girlfriends). This event was Susan’s second fundraiser for The Women’s Exchange of Winnetka, where women are empowered to follow their creative spirit.

Please join us for Afternoon Tea ~ with Susan Branch…

Westmoreland

{♥ Photo credit: Linda M.}

Driving through heavy Chicago area traffic in a terrible rainstorm couldn’t even dampen our spirits on May 10th. We were all just thrilled to spend an afternoon with Susan Branch… and we were bringing our own ‘sunshine’ to welcome her! The Springtime downpour ended just in time for our special gathering of Girlfriends, at the beautiful Westmoreland Country Club, in Wilmette, Illinois.

TeaFriends

{♥ Photo credit: Linda M.}

A friend (who I met at Susan’s last tea party) and I arrived early so that we could visit. We have kept in touch through cards, emails, and our blog for the past two years. We shared a book, handmade cards, and perennials from our gardens with one another. True gifts of the heart, from kindred spirits! Very soon more Girlfriends arrived and we quickly discovered that we were all kindred spirits. The Girlfriends at our table came from several towns in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois. We enjoyed getting to know one another, as we waited for Susan to arrive. {Huge, heartfelt thanks to Linda, Jo, and Karen, who graciously shared photos for today’s post!}

IsleofDreams

Susan’s newest book, Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams, is an inspiring, handlettered, watercolored memoir. It is the most wonderful book!! Based upon diaries that she has kept her entire life, Susan has written her memoir in three parts. She thinks of The Fairy Tale Girl as the appetizer, Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams as the main course, and A Fine Romance as the dessert. Susan’s devoted readers have hungrily awaited each new book in this delicious trilogy!

♥♥♥

WelcomeSusanBranch

As guests continued to arrive for the tea party, a hum of excitement began to build throughout the room. I stepped into the lobby, peeked out the window, and to my surprise… standing outside all alone (while Joe parked the van) was Susan Branch! Without even stopping to think, I went out on the porch to greet her. (It must be the teacher in me!) I welcomed Susan and there were several big hugs ~ just the two of us! We talked about all of the places they had visited so far on this trip, our parents, and Susan’s excitement to meet everyone. (Thankfully, I had my camera in hand to capture this unexpected moment, while we waited for Joe!)

WelcomeGirlfriends

It was time for Susan and Joe to be escorted inside by Deb, the event planner. There were 140 excited Girlfriends (and even some Guy friends) waiting inside! Still on cloud nine, I quietly ‘floated’ back to my table at the tea party. Then it dawned on me what had just happened… a treasured moment, totally unexpected, captured in my heart forever!

TimeforTea

The tea party was a feast for our eyes and taste buds. Fresh fruits, delectable tea sandwiches, scones, and desserts filled our plates, while stacks of our beloved Susan Branch books added a literary touch to our tables!

Dawn&SusanBranch

{♥ Photo credit: Jo R.}

Susan visited each table, warmly greeting all of the Girlfriends, while Joe took pictures and chatted with everyone. Susan and I enjoyed another quiet conversation, as I eagerly shared how closely I connected with her first home on Martha’s Vineyard. She bought her little home, Holly Oak, on her own, and with help was able to create the home and garden of her dreams. I knew just how she felt… and how this little home would forever be a part of her heart! Kindred spirits!

SoHappy

{♥ Photo Credit: Linda M.}

It was time for Susan’s talk. She positively glowed with excitement and charm. Can’t you just feel the excitement in the air? Susan shared several favorite stories from her memoirs, talked about the writing process, answered all of our questions, and even delighted us with a little song.  She brought along two very special books to share with us.

Wilmette2016

{♥ Photo Credit: Joe Hall}

Susan shared how important Girlfriends have been throughout her life. We felt the same emotions as we listened with rapt attention and so much admiration. Kindred spirits, one and all!

SusanBranch1

Susan shared stories of growing up, in California, as the oldest of eight children. She talked about the important lessons she learned from her parents. She shared the exciting news about selling the movie rights for her memoir. Together we suggested actresses that could portray Susan and the actor who could play the role of Joe, in a movie or tv series based upon her life.

SusanBranch2

Getting to know her readers and talking one-on-one with each of us might be Susan’s favorite part of her booksigning tours. We each wore nametags (designed by Susan), so she recognized each of us right from the start. Many of the Girlfriends already know Susan quite well from her engaging blog comments, Twitter feed, and popular Facebook page. What a treat it was to visit in person that afternoon! Kindred spirits!

SusanBranch6

The heartwarming stories that we shared, let Susan know just how much her books mean to all of the Girlfriends. Susan took the time to connect heart-to-heart with every one of us.

GirlfriendsSB

Out of the blue, Susan mentioned our little blog, letting me know that she has visited here quietly many times. I was so touched, that it was hard to even soak it all in! Susan’s kind, generous words will remain in my heart forever. Practically speechless, I do remember telling her that she was my inspiration for creating this happy gathering place for kindred spirits. ♡

♥♥♥

The lines at Susan’s book signing events  are always very long… and filled with joy! For it is in these lines, that new friends meet and old friends reunite. Just imagine spending time in line chatting with women who share all the same passions. In line, I met a new friend who just happens to live four blocks from me! We both love teaching, gardening, decorating, and travel. Kindred spirits! Over the years, whenever I passed by her house, I always admired the charming, white picket fence, grapevine wreath, and pretty shutters. It’s so lovely to know that we both find our inspiration from Susan’s books! We are already planning to visit one another’s gardens this summer.

♥♥♥

A friend from Wisconsin met another Girlfriend standing in line, who lives in the same town, very close to her! It’s just amazing to make such wonderful connections while waiting in a booksigning line. Yet we all understand how Susan brings kindred spirits together!

SusanBranch3

Of course, there were warm hugs! ♥ Lots of hugs!

Susan&Dawn

I feel so blessed to have met Susan at three different booksigning events over the years. As she signed each book, I told Susan about how that book connected with my life. I told her how the recipes in her books have become part of our family traditions. I shared my tradition of gifting her Love book to each of my friends as bridal shower gifts many years ago, but never bought a copy for myself, since I never planned to be married. At the tea party, a special friend gifted me with a copy of this out-of-print book, and Susan signed it for my husband and I that very day. It felt like a complete circle of love!

HeavenWithin

I told Susan how I used her ribbon bookmark to mark a passage that spoke to my heart in each book. Susan’s books are always filled with the most wonderful, handlettered quotations!  Imagine my surprise, when I shared how this page and quotation in Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams was so important to me… and Susan told me that it was also her most cherished quotation! ♥ Kindred spirits!

SusanDawnJoe

Joe joined us for a photo, too!

WonderfulDay

Old friends reunited… and new friends getting to know one another!

Kindred spirits, one and all!

DSCN7563

Heartfelt thanks for coming to visit us, dear Susan and Joe!

Safe travels as you spread happiness from coast to coast!

We are all still smiling and floating on cloud nine!

Kindred spirits are like that!

Hugs from the Heartland!

♡Dawn

P.S.  Do you have a favorite Susan Branch book? Let us know if you have met Susan at a booksigning event. If you write a blog post about it, be sure to share a link with us!