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

Picking Daisies

IMG_0670

Hi Friends!

Waiting in line has never been my ‘cup of tea,’ but this afternoon it felt different.

For I was waiting patiently in line, in my Daisy patch… behind all of the pollinators hard at work.

Slowly I inched my way into the large clump of Daisies, alongside the busy, little bees.

My morning work was finished, and my happy reward was picking Daisies.

Fresh picked Daisies, white Anemones, and Anemone seed heads

Fresh picked Daisies, white Anemones, and spent Anemone seed heads

As I waited for each little pollinator to move on, I began to count the blessings that the garden brought me this week. One-by-one, as I snipped each ‘He loves me’ Daisy, I remembered those sweet, heartwarming moments…

⚛ On Tuesday morning, as I was cutting the grass, our lawnmower stopped. Only halfway through the front yard, I tried and tried to restart the engine to no avail. David, a landscaper hard-at-work in a nearby yard, noticed my dilemma and came to the rescue. From his truck, he produced oil, a new spark plug, and his tools. Right there, in the middle of his busy morning, he adjusted the carburetor, and was able to start my lawnmower one more time. The kindness of a stranger had saved the day and I worked quickly to finish my job! (Shhhhh! I have a ‘thank you’ gift to leave in David’s truck when he comes to work in the neighborhood this week!)

⚛ Later that afternoon, while I was working in the garden, our neighbor, Jim, walked up. He had seen the lawn mower problem that morning, and ever-so-kindly offered to put the lawnmower into his truck and take it to a trusted repair shop. Now the repairman is trying so hard to work his magic, and then Jim will pick it up again with his truck. The kindness of a young neighbor (with a truck) is always so appreciated!

Raindrops on pink Clematis and Peony blossoms

Raindrops on Clematis and Peony blossoms

⚛ On Thursday morning, as I weeded the front garden beds, two lovely ladies stopped to chat as they walked past the garden. It was fun to talk with Susan, as we shared our tried-and-true tips for avoiding mosquito bites in the garden. A bit later, Devi stopped to introduce herself. She is a sweet, retired teacher, new to the neighborhood. It was such fun to tell her about our wonderful library and all that it offers! I invited her to step through the arbor to see my Friendship Garden in the backyard. Gardening always seems to invite the nicest passersby to stop and talk. It’s one of nature’s best kept secrets!

⚛ On Thursday afternoon, Elena stopped to visit. Since the day she was born, I have enjoyed watching her grow and blossom. She shared the exciting news that she now has a home of her own. Instantly, I offered to dig up perennials for her very first garden. So, plans are underway! It always warms my heart to share my garden and the gift of gardening with friends. Two other special friends, Hollice and Maria, will also come to dig up perennials to start gardens for their new homes this summer.

'Garden Grow' collage

Supplies used: Altenew ‘Garden Grow’ stamp set, Canson watercolor paper, Versafine Onyx Black pigment ink, Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers, paintbrush, water, and Post-It notes for masking images.

⚛ Saturday brought the blessing of gentle showers all day long. So, I happily spent many hours in my ‘Paper Garden’ studio downstairs. It was such fun to experiment with the Altenew ‘Garden Grow’ stamp set, creating masks to design some little garden vignettes. As I watercolored the images, using Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers, I thought about special friends who could use a bit of cheer. Soon these images will become the focal points on handmade cards. Creative time adds sunshine to the rainiest of days!

Yellow Iris and Victoria Blue Salvia

Yellow Iris and Victoria Blue Salvia, after the rain

Picking Daisies this afternoon truly did feel like an exhilarating tonic for the soul!

As the sun shone down upon the blossoms,

I slowed down to nature’s pace and took time to reflect.

So many blessings from the garden brought unexpected joys to these early June days.

Sometimes… waiting in line can be blessing, too!

⚛⚛⚛

Thank you so much for picking Daisies with me today.

Your visits and comments are such a joy!

Happy Springtime days!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  What unexpected joys blessed you this past week?

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!

Timeless Treasures

TimelessTreasures

Hi Friends!

Two of my favorite timeless treasures have always been old houses and antique quilts.

The chance to admire both, in a peaceful, charming setting

is always a wonderful treat for me!

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a special visit to the

9th Annual “All Around the House” Quilt Show,

at Fischer Farm. 

DSCN6905

The main farmhouse was built by the Fischer family in the 1920s. Over the years, it has been lovingly restored,

telling the story of this hardworking, Midwestern farm family.

DSCN6993

The original 1838 homestead was built when the Fischer family immigrated from Germany.

DSCN6909

The Milk Barn and other preserved buildings offer a glimpse of farm life between 1838 and 1930.

DSCN6947

For one glorious weekend each Spring,

Fischer Farm invites quilters and quilt lovers to gather here.

Over 100 quilts were carefully hung on all of the walls throughout the farmhouse.

DSCN6919

Some of the quilts are original to the Fischer family.

Many more have been shared by private collectors and local quilters for display during this show. 

Several of the quilts were for sale during the show.

(I would love to give credit to each of these quiltmakers.

Please let me know if you can help identify any of the talented people who made these quilts!)

DSCN6970

It was so delightful to slowly walk through the farmhouse admiring all of the

beautifully preserved woodwork, floors, and furniture.

Admiring the antique quilts was truly the ‘icing on the cake!’

(I wished that I could reach out and touch each quilt,

but of course, these treasures can only be touched by their owners.)

DSCN6965

White-gloved volunteers shared a fascinating ‘bed turning’ presentation.

As they carefully turned back each layer of quilts on the antique bed,

they paused to tell the story of each quilt.

It was so interesting to see how the styles, patterns, and colors changed over the years.

Most important of all, each quilt held a story!

This Embroidered Baskets quilt belonged to Esther Fischer (1904-1999), who grew up in this bedroom.

She became a teacher and taught at the nearby, one-room Fischer Schoolhouse.

Esther lived in this farmhouse until she moved in 1986.

There were tears in my eyes as I heard the story of her special quilt.

DSCN6937

The soft fabrics, muted colors, and delicate stitches of antique quilts always warm my heart.

Oh, the family stories, hopes, and dreams that have been thoughtfully stitched into each quilt!

DSCN6978

DSCN6981

Although I am not a quilter, I have always had a passion for quilts.

As I was growing up, I watched my mother lovingly create a beautiful quilt, block by block.

I will always remember all of the love that was handstitched into her beautiful sampler quilt.

DSCN69922

I have enjoyed visiting quilt auctions, quilt shows, and quilt shops for so many years.

A small collection of Amish and vintage quilts adds such warmth to our home. Each one holds a wonderful story of how it came to be part of our home.  I often think of the countless hours the quiltmakers worked designing, cutting, piecing, and quilting each treasured work of art. “Grandmother’s Flower Garden” will always be my favorite traditional quilt pattern!

DSCN69992

As I admired the timeless beauty of each quilt,

I had the chance to talk with several of the talented quilters.

They were all so welcoming,

while sharing their passion for quilting and teaching me more about antique quilts.

Although I explained that I am not a quilter, just a quilt-lover,

they invited me

to come to their twice-weekly gathering of quilters.

At that moment, I discovered what makes quilts such timeless treasures ~

it is the quilters themselves,

and the love that they stitch into their works of art!

DSCN6994

As I left the farmhouse, I followed the path to the old barn,

filled with antique quilts, vintage linens, fat quarters, and quilting books for sale.

All of the friendly quilters continued to share more

about their beloved art.

To thank each of the quilters for their kindness,

I shared the happy news

that fabrics designed by Susan Branch are now available online.

Quilters will absolutely love Susan’s charming, hand painted designs!

⚛⚛⚛

Although I didn’t purchase any quilts or fabrics at the quilt show,

my heart was filled with wonderful inspiration!

I soaked up lovely color combinations and designs to bring into my papercrafting studio,

where I love making little paper-pieced ‘quilts’ on my handmade cards.

What an inspiring morning it was!

DSCN70022

Ever since the quilt show, I have been thinking about how

writing a blog is a tiny bit like making a quilt.

Bloggers create a handmade

patchwork of stories,

stitched with the warm comments of their readers,

pieced together from all parts of the world,

 with patches of

wisdom, memories, and joy.

These delicate threads hold us all together

through good times and bad times,

sharing the present and remembering the past,

always comforted with love.

DSCN69842

Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes is two years old today!!

I’m ‘sew’ grateful

for all of the warm friendships

that our little blog has stitched together.

 Each of you

helps to piece together our stories,

with warmth and love…

and tied with heartstrings!

♡♡

Thank you so much for stopping to visit today.

Warmest hugs!

♡Dawn

P.S.  One of my very first blog posts was about the 2014  “All Around the House” Quilt Show at Fischer Farm. ♥ Do you have a favorite post or type of story that you really enjoy? ♥ I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Spark Joy

DSCN5095

Hi Friends!

Brrrrrr! In the Midwest, March certainly “roared in like a lion” yesterday bringing sleet and snow. This morning we woke up to bright sunshine and single-digit temperatures. More snow is on the way tomorrow. By this time of year, I always take Shelley’s quote to heart. These words, carefully stitched and framed, are hanging near the back door, to warm our hearts as we head out into the cold!

I’m so happy to welcome all of the new ‘kindred spirits’ who have begun following our blog over the past few weeks! There is so much to see hidden behind the slide-out sidebar. (Just click near the top of the orange bar). Brew a warm cup of tea and spend some cozy moments exploring the blog archives and the tag cloud. I hope you will find something to warm your heart and make you smile!

Life has slowed down considerably during the past few weeks due to a lengthy illness. Doctor’s visits seem to be my only adventures lately. I have been following doctor’s orders to the letter hoping to feel better very soon. While resting, I have enjoyed lots of extra reading time. I couldn’t wait to share a few thoughts about a new book…

DSCN6825

After reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up last summer, I eagerly awaited Marie Kondo’s follow-up book, Spark Joy. Fortunately, our library ordered several copies hot off the press in January. As I read, I searched for tips to recharge the next phase of my own Tidying Up celebration.

I will always cherish KonMari’s philosophy of Tidying Up, so wonderfully explained in her first book. KonMari’s new book, Spark Joy, added a few more tips that will be helpful as I finish tidying up komono (miscellaneous items) in the kitchen and two more closets. The biggest challenge of the Tidying Up celebration is always saved for last ~ deciding which sentimental items to keep. Armed with another dose of KonMari’s motivation and tips, I’m ready to take on the next part of my celebration!

DSCN6826

 As I read, I made note of a few of KonMari’s tips from Spark Joy that truly resonated with me. As I put her ideas into practice, I would love to share them with you. It was very interesting to read how KonMari has mellowed in her Tidying Up instructions, since getting married and the birth of her daughter. While staying true to her philosophy of having only those items that spark joy in your home, Spark Joy feels more realistic for today’s busy, complicated lifestyles.

Last Autumn, I enjoyed Tidying Up clothing and books. It was surprisingly easy to decide which items to keep! As I held each item in my hands, I could feel those that sparked joy in my heart. The paperwork category was much harder to tidy up. First, I stopped to do a bit of research to be sure that I was saving all of the necessary financial, household, and insurance papers. It was more of a challenge to feel the joy, as I began shredding papers from the file cabinets. (Honestly, there is still a bit of shredding to finish up!) I’m taking it slowly, against KonMari’s advice to work quickly. ‘Better safe than sorry’ when it comes to shredding!

I intentionally planned an extra-long break from my Tidying celebration throughout the holiday season. Although KonMari’s method of working by category is brilliant, it does create a huge mess while working through the process! Be mindful of this fact if you are planning a Tidying Up celebration of your own. In fact, in Spark Joy, KonMari says that as long as you apply the basics, it’s okay to do your own unique version of Tidying Up.

I’m still very enthusiastic about the process! Although I have had to slow down for the past few weeks, it is my intention to complete my once-in-a-lifetime Tidying Up celebration before the garden wakes up. I’m already looking forward to the next get-together of our little ‘Spark Joy’ club. We are a group of dear friends who live locally and enjoy getting together to encourage one another in this adventure. We always have such funny stories to share about Tidying Up!

DSCN6834

Yesterday, inspired by Marie Kondo’s thoughts on “becoming a person who matches the books you’ve kept,” I took a peek at some of the books that spark joy that I kept in my book collection…

DSCN6842

Most of my treasured books are nonfiction. On cold winter days, what could be more fun than reading gardening books and dreaming garden dreams?

DSCN6841

I’m truly passionate about growing perennials and herbs. Thoughts of spending hours tending the plants in my white picket fence herb garden warm my heart all winter long. I can still remember the day I bought The Pleasure of Herbs, while visiting a dear friend in Minnesota. From the moment I opened that book, I knew that herbs would always be a very special part of my garden!

DSCN6847

Although I don’t plant a vegetable garden, these are a few of the cookbooks that inspire recipes with fresh, organic ingredients. The Produce Bible is a great reference, filled with wonderful tips.  Tasha Tudor has always been one of my gardening inspirations.

DSCN6849

This stack of books feels right at home on a table beside my rocking chair. It is filled with inspiration for simple gatherings with family and friends, gardening, and lovely watercolors from nature.

DSCN6848

This small stack of books holds an antique lamp, on a tiny table beside the sofa in the living room. I enjoy reading these books often, choosing recipes for tea parties. Small gatherings of kindred spirits sharing tea make such special memories! Tea for two is my very favorite way to stay close to dear friends.

DSCN6844

Oh, my heart! Most of my friends know that Susan Branch has been my inspiration since her very first book was published. This is just part of my most favorite book collection of all. Heart of the Home will always be an extra-special book. I bought it for my mom when it was first published. She enjoyed it for so many years, and then gifted it back to me! I have given Susan’s books as gifts so often. Whenever I am antiquing, I always look for out-of-print Susan Branch books for special gifts. Such serendipity to find just the right book for a special friend!

Next month, Susan’s newest book, Martha’s Vineyard ~ Isle of Dreams, will arrive in the mail. It’s such a thrill every time a new book is published! I’m sure this will be my very favorite book of all. It is Part Two of Susan’s handlettered, watercolored memoir. I just can’t wait to read all about how she bought a little home of her own, planted a garden, grew as an artist, and met the love of her life! Kindreds to be sure!! I’m simply thrilled to enjoy Afternoon Tea with Susan Branch again in May, at a large tea party and book signing in her honor! Such a fan girl!

DSCN6837

My books most definitely reflect the person I aspire to be!

They spark joy in my life… and inspire me to ‘blossom’ every day!

♥♥♥

I’d love to hear about the most special books in your collection!

Perhaps we share some of the same favorites, as kindred spirits often do…

Happy Reading!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Heartfelt thanks for all of the beautiful cards, phone calls, and emails! Your friendships have truly warmed my heart and brightened my days! ♡♡

 

Save

A Christmas Bright and Sweet

DSCN6634

Hi Friends!

Twas the night before Christmas,

when all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring,

not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung

by the chimney with care,

In hopes that Saint Nicholas

soon would be there.

                          ~Clement C. Moore

DSCN6632

The Christmas day is dawning;

Our carols now we sing;

And pray the coming season

May peace and gladness bring.

To every one, and all of yours,

We wish a merry day,

And hope some of its pleasures

Through all the year may stay.

~ L. A. France

DSCN6636

I heard the bells

on Christmas Day

Their old familiar

carols play,

And wild and sweet

The word repeat

Of peace on earth

good-will to men!

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

DSCN6640

I will honor Christmas in my heart,

and try to keep it all the year.

~ Charles Dickens

DSCN6639

 

DSCN6642

Wishing family and friends,

near and far,

a wonderful season of celebration!

Your friendship, visits, and comments

are gifts that I truly treasure

today…  and always!

 

Heartfelt gratitude,

♡ Dawn

P.S.   To learn more about the Poinsettia ~ History and Legends, please stop to visit my friend, Claire Jones, at The Garden Diaries. What a fascinating post! Claire is one of my favorite gardening experts! ♡

Sharing Handmade Kindness

Hi Friends!

Rabbit! Rabbit! What fun to begin a brand new month just filled with possibilities! Here in the United States, November is the time that our thoughts turn to Thanksgiving. Although we won’t celebrate Thanksgiving Day until November 26th, we have an entire month to celebrate our families, friends, those who help us, and even the kindness of strangers.

Today I can’t wait to introduce you to someone that I have admired for so long! Jennifer McGuire is an amazing mother, talented card maker, respected teacher, and thoughtful friend. Her wonderful blog posts and excellent You Tube videos continually help me to grow as a card maker, by inspiring me to try so many new techniques. Jennifer has become a true leader in the world of paper crafting! (Just feel her warmth in this quick video.) One of the reasons that Jennifer shines so brightly is her kindness. Although we have never met, I always think of Jennifer as one of my best ‘crafty friends.’ She makes everyone feel that way!

Throughout the entire month of of November,

Jennifer McGuire is challenging everyone to

Share Handmade Kindness!

This challenge is most definitely ‘my cup of tea.’

Nothing makes me happier than making cards for family, dear friends,

our honored veterans, and our brave, military servicemen and women.

♥♥♥

My happiness is always two-fold…

I just love spending time making a card with one special person in mind.

I think of them the entire time I am designing, die cutting, stamping, and choosing the perfect sentiments.

DSCN4616

For me, the happiest part of all has always been slipping each handmade card

into its envelope, writing the address, and choosing the perfect postage stamp!

It just makes my heart happy!!

I imagine how they will feel when they open their mailbox

to find an envelope

filled with love and kindness!

They will know that someone is thinking of them today.

You never know when such a small gesture just might make someone’s day!

You Are So Loved(Listen to Jennifer… in her own words, in this short video.)

♥♥♥

There are so many other ways we can all  Share Handmade Kindness...

Anything made with the hands and the heart counts!

Handmade Gifts from the Kitchen

A gift from your kitchen always makes someone feel special.

The last of the garden flowers.A bouquet from your garden would certainly brighten someone’s day!

Pinwheel Quilt, One Stitch at a TimeWhat could be sweeter than a little something ‘stitched’ with love?

DSCN4457The simple act of writing a note or a letter is a true gift of the heart!

♥♥♥

I’m sure you’ll agree that the world could use a little more kindness…

♥♥♥

Join the fun this November!

Let’s take on Jennifer’s Share Handmade Kindness Challenge!

I will keep you posted with new details each week…

and you can visit JenniferMcquireInk.com at any time to learn more.

Week 1 (November 2 – 8) will focus on sharing any kind of handmade kindness with friends and family.

Week 2 (November 9 – 15) will focus on sharing any kind of handmade kindness with anyone who works/serves in our community

Week 3 (November 16-22) will focus on sharing any kind of handmade kindness with children.

Week 4 (November 23-29) will focus on sharing any kind of handmade kindness with strangers.

Leave a note on someone’s windshield. Send a card to a favorite blogger. (Yes, that isn’t exactly a stranger, but you likely haven’t met!) Drop off a kind note to the mail lady who was nice to you last time you were there. Anyone! Notes or simple cards are best for this challenge.

Who will you share handmade kindness with this week?

♥♥♥

Scientific research supports the relaxed, happy feelings that makers always feel as we create.

After reading about the health benefits of crafting

in this recent CNN post, “This is Your Brain on Crafting,”

why not head to your favorite crafty space to

Share Handmade Kindness!

Paper hugs!

♡ Dawn

P.S. I’m so happy that you stopped to visit today!

What handmade gifts do you love to share?

What handmade kindness will you share this week?

We can’t wait to hear from you!

A Gift ~ Tied with Heartstrings

Tea and cake for a celebration

Hi Friends!

It felt like a gift! Truly it did!

It was one of those gifts that we wait a very long time for, making it feel even sweeter.

I wasn’t alone, as I waited. Thousands of Girlfriends were also waiting!

Beloved author, Susan Branch, has been hard at work for over a year, pouring through the diaries she has kept since her 20s and all of her cherished, old photos. She was lovingly writing her memoir, watercoloring her illustrations, and choosing just the right photos to tell her story.  Her newest book, The Fairy Tale Girl, published in September, is what we have all been waiting for!

Susan Branch book collection

My treasured collection of Susan Branch books

After reading her books again and again through the years, Susan’s devoted readers already knew many parts of her story. Her charming blog posts let us peek into her wonderful life today on Martha’s Vineyard.

Susan Branch speaking at Westmoreland Country Club

Susan is such a wonderful storyteller!

Over the years, so many of us have been blessed to meet Susan. We smiled as she shared her delightful stories about traveling through the English Countryside at book signings across the country. We listened with rapt attention, at a tea party in her honor, as she told us about the time she met the Beatles.

Susan Branch signing books after tea party

What a joy to meet Susan for the second time, at a lovely tea party!

Last May, Susan’s legions of devoted Girlfriends had the opportunity to pre-order her new book. While Susan was still busy illustrating her memoir, adding the photos, choosing the perfect paper, and ribbon bookmark, we cheered her on. ‘Our’ book was almost ready… and we were eagerly waiting!

Just two weeks ago, our books began arriving in our mailboxes! I was sitting on the front porch with with a guest, when our mail carrier walked up holding a package. I *might* have squealed and hugged the package! 🙂

I knew that it was a true gift, tied with heartstrings!

DSCN5885The long-awaited moment had arrived!

DSCN5889The Fairy Tale Girl ~ by Susan Branch

Oh, the joys of reading Susan’s life story…

With great anticipation, I had carefully planned ahead for some long, lazy afternoons of reading. I wanted to savor her words, her illustrations,… her story! Afternoons on the front porch, with The Fairy Tale Girl and a cup of tea, were such a gift. There were knowing smiles as she shared her childhood stories of growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. Laughter filled my heart and tears flowed. The beautifully watercolored song lyrics had me singing along to the soundtrack of my life. (I’m just a wee bit younger than Susan.)  As I read, I often paused to think about my own life during the very same time, making so many connections.

Each chapter felt like a gift from Susan.

She is sharing her heart with all of us!

What a privilege it is to know the real story

of  the author who has inspired me in so many ways over the years.

DSCN5926

It is so enchanting to watch Susan grow into the amazing woman we all admire today!

DSCN5924

The diaries that Susan has kept since she was in her 20s fill her memoir with vivid details

and the pure emotions of each chapter in her life.

She is very open and honest about her adventures in life,

her happy childhood, hopes, dreams, heartbreak,

and starting over.

It’s easy to see why Susan cherishes both her lifelong girlfriends

and the Girlfriends (fans) that celebrate her today.

DSCN5925

I had planned to read the entire memoir very slowly, savoring each moment.

However, when Susan’s heart was broken,

I just had to keep reading nonstop, trying to pull her through those years.

As the chapters of her life unfold,

Susan reminds us all that life is sprinkled with both sad and joyful parts.

It is just another one of Susan’s gifts ~ tied with heartstrings!

♥♥♥

Susan writes,

“A part of ALL of us is written into the pages

of The Fairy Tale Girl.”

♥♥♥

So true…

You might enjoy reading The Fairy Tale Girl, too!

As you read Susan’s story,

you will certainly reflect on your own life

(or perhaps your mother’s life),

growing up at a time

when women’s roles were evolving.

♥♥♥

It’s the very best kind of book ~

the kind that leaves you wanting more!

Susan leaves us with a real “cliff-hanger” at the end of the book.

Now we are anxiously waiting for Book Two of her memoir,

Martha’s Vineyard ~ Isle of Dreams.

Book Two will be published in Spring of 2016.

I can’t wait to read about how Susan runs away from heartbreak in California,

buys a little home of her own on Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts,

and makes all of her dreams come true!

It’s sure to be another lovely gift ~ tied with heartstrings!

♥♥♥

Whether you are a seasoned Susan Branch fan or brand new to her books,

you will love her engaging writing style and charming artwork.

Autographed copies are available now at SusanBranch.com

Visit your favorite independent bookstore soon.

Amazon will have the book later this month.

Happy Reading!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Can’t wait to chat about this book! If you are a nearby Girlfriend, let’s get together over tea to talk about the book. 🙂  Please share your thoughts with a comment or via email.  I look forward to chatting…

Save

Chatting by the Garden Gate…

Welcome! The garden gate is open!

Hi Friends!

Hope you are enjoying these late summer days in the garden!  Here in the Midwest, the first week of September brought us a real heatwave. Yet it still feels like summer is coming to an end much too soon. Although the garden is filled with bright color, the light is different now, the foliage is looking a bit tired, and the ground is very dry. We are hoping for a little rain to help the garden thrive in the weeks to come.

This morning, I danced into the garden very early hoping to avoid the afternoon heat. What a treat for the senses! I was mindful as the birds sang sweetly and the cicadas buzzed louder and louder. Butterflies fluttered from bloom to bloom in the gentle breeze. Oh-so many bees buzzed about doing their important work. The sweet fragrance of the blossoms drew me closer. The morning sun felt warm, rather than hot and sticky. Although there was much work to do, I spent a few moments just ‘being in the garden. So often, we are too busy ‘doing’ in the garden. In these precious moments, under the wide, shady brim of my straw hat, my eyes were smiling and my heart was singing!

Blue Mist Bluebeard shrub in bloom

Soon, gardenkeeping called and I set to work transplanting a small Blue Mist Bluebeard shrub. The mother plant has been a lovely part of our front yard for many years. It was a gift of friendship from Candy’s garden and has survived our harsh, snowy winters here in USDA Zone 5. Every year, in late summer, this shrub rewards us with beautiful blue flowers and a heavenly fragrance. Best of all, it is just filled with bees! Each time I pass, I notice an abundance of bees landing on almost every stem. They are practically waiting in line for their turn!

DSCN5785

Two years ago, we discovered five baby Blue Mist Bluebeard shrubs growing in a raised bed about eight feet away from the mother plant. Oh the joy!! They are now about 15 inches tall, filled with beautiful blue blossoms, and attracting many bees of their own. So this morning, I began transplanting the small shrubs to the backyard, along the white picket fence of my Herb Garden. They are such an attractive shrub all year long with their aromatic, gray-green foliage. Their woody stems will add interest to the picket fence border garden through the winter months.

Most important of all, I hope these shrubs will attract even more bees to my Herb Garden! There is a Bee Bath just inside the picket fence, where the bees can rest upon flat river rocks to sip fresh water. Having a nearby water source will keep the bees happily working in and around my Herb Garden even longer. They won’t have to travel to seek out water. Moving these beautiful shrubs to their new location near the white picket fence should keep the herbs, the bees, and the gardener happy!

DSCN5784

If you would like to add a pollinator ‘magnet’ to your garden this Autumn,

I would certainly recommend…

Blue Mist Bluebeard shrub

(Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Blue Mist’)

(Also called Blue Spiraea)

USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9

Deciduous shrub, with gray-green foliage

Plant in full sun

Grows moderately fast, to 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Water regularly for the first year, then it needs only occasional watering

Very heat tolerant

Deer resistant

Long blooming, fragrant blue blossoms, late summer until hard frost

Clipping spent blossoms will encourage rebloom

Prune when leaves first appear in the springtime to promote strong, dense growth in the summer

Blooms on new growth

Attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees, bees, bees!

⚛⚛⚛

Every year, the Blue Mist Bluebeard shrub brings us such pleasure in our cottage garden. I love to use its cuttings in flower arrangements. We often stand near this lovely shrub just to watch the busy pollinators at work. The bees seem to stay on the blossoms and haven’t bothered us at all. Don’t plant it too close to your door though. (You don’t want unexpected guests to follow you inside!)

⚛⚛⚛

Transplanting the Blue Mist Bluebeard shrubs to the backyard and digging up Rudbeckia plants to share with neighbors this morning created a large, open space in one of our front garden beds.

Perfect timing …

Celosia 'Intenz

Showy Celosia ‘Intenz’ (also known as Cockscomb) adds bright color and pizzazz!

Just yesterday, at the fruit market, a beautiful new plant jumped into our shopping cart.  Celosia ‘Intenz,’ with its spiky blooms of brilliant color instantly made me smile! As we walked around in the market, so many other shoppers were smiling at the very same plant in their carts. It felt like we were all part of a secret garden club on wheels! Celosia ‘Intenz‘ is a new, annual plant for this year. It will be fun to enjoy its wonderful blooms in the garden for the remainder of the season. Then I plan to dig it up and bring it inside for the winter. By taking cuttings, I’m hoping to have more new plants for the garden next Spring!

Hope you have a great week ahead!

Wishing all of our American friends a very happy Labor Day!

Enjoy an extra day

to relax,

plan a cookout,

go to a baseball game,

take a long walk or bike ride,

or

 play in your garden!

⚛⚛⚛

Thank you so much for stopping to chat by the garden gate today.

I always enjoy our visits!

Scatter smiles!

♡ Dawn

             P.S.   Which plants in your garden attract the most pollinators?  Let us know!

Chatting by the Garden Gate…

...

Are mosquitoes taking a bite out of your summertime fun?

Hi Friends!

Just taking a few moments to stop and chat over the garden gate on a warm, sunny afternoon…

We have had another cool, rainy week here in our Midwest cottage garden. In the afternoon sun, several Red Admiral butterflies have been darting around. It’s such fun to watch their quick, erratic flight patterns while working in the garden!

Red Admiral butterfly  {Photo Credit}

Our perennials have grown taller than ever before during the past rainy weeks. The weeds are thriving, too! Last week, the mosquitoes hatched in great numbers, making my time in the garden oh-so uncomfortable. On our recent walk through the garden, hungry mosquitoes forced me inside, covered with itchy bites. When I appealed to our blog friends, they offered several suggestions to keep the mosquitoes at bay. I am ever-so grateful for all of the wonderful ideas!

Girl Scout badges bring back such happy memories for me!

Today, I bravely tried this suggestion, from my friend, Jo…

Jo in Western Springs, IL said:

“Dawn, your gardens are so very lovely! As regards the mosquitoes, when I had a Girl Scout troop and we would go on hikes, the girls would tie a clothes dryer sheet in a buttonhole and this would deter the pesky little biters (mosquitoes, not girls). Give it a whirl! Happy summer days to you!”

My sweet memories of Girl Scout days encouraged me to try Jo’s idea first! Since we always have clothes dryer sheets in the laundry area, this morning I took out a Bounce dryer sheet, with high hopes. While wearing long sleeves and long pants for added mosquito protection, I quickly rubbed the Bounce dryer sheet over my clothing and then tucked it into my shirt pocket. Off I went to cut the grass and pull weeds. I’m thrilled to report that after four hours in the garden, I had no mosquito bites at all! I could see the mosquitoes flying nearby, but they left me alone today! What a difference from last week!! (Jo, you are such a blessing!! It feels like your idea has given me back the joy of gardening during our terrible mosquito invasion!! ) ♡

I couldn’t wait to share the happy news! I spotted my neighbor, a mother of newborn twin daughters, in her garden and went over to tell her the surprising news. She was so thrilled to have a solution that didn’t involve repellent sprays!! We rubbed her clothing with my Bounce dryer sheet, and then she ran inside to get a dryer sheet for her pocket, too. Tucking the dryer sheet through a button hole would also work great! My neighbor is planning to attach a dryer sheet to each hood of her double stroller every time she takes the twins for a walk. We are both feeling very hopeful that we will be able to enjoy our summer days again!

I wanted to share Jo’s wonderful  suggestion, just in time for your weekend activities!

If you do try the dyer sheet method to repel mosquitoes, be sure to check back and let us know if it works for you.

The Chicago area will have the second highest mosquito population in the U.S. this summer. {WGN news}

Our blog friends offered so many helpful suggestions to repel mosquitoes on last week’s post.

I’m so grateful for all of their ideas…

Jayne told us about purchasing a hat infused with mosquito repellent, trying the natural repellent Swamp Gator,

and using products containing Deet, then showering immediately after gardening work.

Penny has tried B-1/Thiamine, but only found success with a strong repellent.

Martha Ellen shared her husband’s success applying SKIN SO SOFT by Avon to all exposed skin.

In last week’s post, I suggested planting Citronella, Marigolds, Lavender, Catnip,

Basil, and Lemon Balm as natural mosquito repellents.

As always, our kind readers continue to share great ideas!

June shared her wonderful idea in the comments below. Scroll through the comments to see how

she uses white vinegar to prevent mosquitoes from biting! What a great tip!

⚛⚛⚛

Do let us know if you try any of our suggestions with success!

We all want to enjoy our time in the garden

throughout mosquito season!!

⚛⚛⚛

Thanks so much for stopping by! I always enjoy our visits here.

Wishing you a pleasant weekend filled with your favorite summertime activities!

Enjoy today!

♡Dawn