Breathing Room…

Dear Friends,

All of your beautiful words and expressions of sympathy on my last post after the loss of my dear brothers, Johnny and Jeff, deeply touched my heart. I shared all of your comforting words with my parents, too. We truly appreciate all of the many ways you have surrounded our family with so much love and kindness.

My heart is also filled with gratitude for the space you have given me to take so much time away from blogging. My days continue to be filled to overflowing with precious family time. Each day brings special memories, much new learning, and many difficult decisions to ponder. There have been many a sleepless night over the past few months.

Today I am enjoying a very rare day at home. What a joy to spend an entire late summer morning in my garden! There is nothing like spending time in nature to find a bit of breathing room from all that is going on in our world right now. I’m sure you also feel the need for breathing room. I’m so grateful that you stopped here for a little visit today!

The perennials are in full bloom and I’d love a short stroll through the garden with you as we chat…

It’s always so peaceful to walk amongst the blossoms and bees. The Phlox are bobbing their heads in the breeze today. The bright, yellow Rudbeckia ‘Herbstonne’ are much taller than me! Although we have had some recent heavy rain, we are still eight inches below our normal rainfall for the year. I have been handwatering the containers and filling the bee baths, while Nature provides for the rest of the garden.

Over the past five Summers, I worked extremely hard to intentionally ‘right-size’ my cottage perennial gardens. Inspired by garden writer Kerry Ann Mendez, I slowly removed several large flower beds in our front yard, backyard, and side yard. I knew that life would be filled with other priorities and my gardening time would grow much more limited.

This Summer, I am truly reaping the benefits of my ‘right-size’ garden! It is so much more manageable now. Throughout this growing season, I typically can only spend one day each week gardenkeeping. Oh, how I look forward to a day of deadheading, pruning, weeding, and mowing the lawn! It’s such a great workout for both the heart and soul… and always ends with a colorful bouquet to fill a Mason jar, crock, or pitcher.

My Herb and Tea Garden will always be the ‘heart’ of my garden. I savor every moment spent inside the white picket fence tending the culinary herbs and mints. During this busy season, some of the herbs bloomed before I could remove their flower buds. Better late than never… 😉

This Summer, the colors, scents, and sounds in the garden have inspired me and have often made their way into my Morning Pages. I have been focusing on making space for a tiny, creative step each day. Currently, I am really enjoying Julia Cameron’s new book, The Listening Path.

As I tend the garden, aware of all the sounds around me, it helps me to stay mindful and present in the moment. Julia Cameron uses the word “heartfeltness.” Julia writes, “When we listen to each moment as it unfolds, we find ourselves listening to our heart.” (page 42) While I am working in the garden, the world feels more gentle!

Have I ever told you that most of my blog posts over the past seven years have been composed while I am nurturing my perennials and herbs in the garden? It’s true! My muse always meets me in the garden. 💗 Then I hurry inside to my keyboard to write you a letter! (Today’s letter is a bit shorter. I’m attempting to use the WordPress Block editor on my iPad for the first time. 🤦🏼‍♀️ Fingers crossed that this letter will find its way to you!)

Be extra gentle with yourself each day… and listen to your heart!
Hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy!

Perennially yours,

💗Dawn

P.S. How do you add breathing room to your week? What’s happening in your garden? What are you reading right now? Hope we can chat in the comments…. I’ve really missed everyone! Sending huge hugs!💕

Small Moments

Hi Friends!

Happy International Women’s Day! I’m so glad that YOU stopped to visit with us today. The nicest people, from across the globe, always seem to find their way here. Yesterday, we had visitors from the U.S., UK, Ireland, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, France, South Africa, Canada, and Brazil. It fills my heart with joy to know that you spend a few moments of your busy day in this little corner of the internet! Whether you are a longtime friend or this is your very first visit, I hope you feel ‘at home’ here.

I have been contemplating some small moments that I want to remember as the weeks pass. Today, in my Midwest garden, there are only a few small snowpiles remaining. In January, we had 22 inches (56cm) of snow. February brought us 22 more inches (56cm) of snow! Shoveling snow became my regular ‘workout’ for a few weeks. With a desire to play in all that snow, I couldn’t wait to build a snowman (actually, a snowlady!).  😉

Meet Rosemary, the snow gardener! 🙂 She was named for my favorite herb and enjoyed wearing my straw, garden hat over her dried Hydrangea tresses. Each time I peeked out the window, Rosie was smiling back at me! To her good fortune, an Arctic plunge kept temperatures below 0 degrees for days on end.

With several more inches of glittery snow, Mother Nature dressed Rosemary in a flowing wedding gown. We will always remember her nice, long visit and all of the joy she brought us!

Last week, I gratefully put away my warmest, woolen mittens. As the snow melted, I happily noticed a most welcome sign of Spring during my daily walk through the neighborhood. It definitely put a smile in my heart and a spring in my step!

It just amazes me how these delicate Snowdrops can withstand the weight of so much snow cover! In our garden, the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is showing its foliage. The Daffodils are already three inches tall. The buds on the Lilac, and Rhododendron are swelling. True signs that Spring is just around the corner!

The Magnolia buds have me dreaming my garden dreams as I wait. In fact, I have been thinking about mulch this week as I ponder a few changes to the garden. 😉

This is already my tenth year of choosing ‘One Little Word’ to guide me throughout the year. This year’s word  reminds me of the many ways to add S P A C E to my life. On the first page of my 2021 Self-Care bullet journal, my new word is surrounded by all of my previous ‘words.’ I continue to call upon all of these ‘words’ day after day!

As I continue to work through The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, I have been reflecting on Creative Space and the ways that I incorporate creative rituals, inspiration, nature, and sensory experiences into my little Paper Garden studio downstairs.

 

For my Artist Date last week, I added touches of Springtime to my Self-Care bullet journal. The dot grid pages are filling up with creative affirmations, studio rules, and my creativity contract. Little-by-little, step-by-step, I can feel tiny, meaningful changes happening in my creative soul. I always look forward to our Tuesday Creative Cluster gatherings, via Zoom. Creativity is such an important part of my healthy lifestyle!

This year’s valentine for my sweet husband used non-traditional colors for a more natural look.

I never remember to photograph the inside of my handmade cards before I write in them! (So, I used a few seashells to hide the personal words here. 🙂 ) My cards are always embellished on the inside as a special treat for the recipient.

Distress inks and more stamps and dies from The Greetery helped me to create a collection of winter sprigs.

It was such fun to fill a tiny, stoneware pitcher with winter berries and greens for my parents. It won’t be long until things start to ‘bloom’ in my Paper Garden studio. Springtime usually arrives a bit early there! 🙂

Last week, I was blessed with the BEST small moment of all! It truly felt like a Red-Letter Day!!

After weeks and weeks of searching unsuccessfully for a vaccine appointment, a wonderful, unexpected opportunity arose! Our suburb worked to provide vaccines for 970 Seniors (65+ years old). With support from the police and fire departments, city officials, several pharmacists, and many volunteers, they set up a one-day vaccine clinic to administer our first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Everything went so smoothly. We will all return in three weeks for our second dose of the vaccine!

As I headed home, my heart was overflowing with gratitude. My vaccine felt like a very big deal!! Each precious vial of ‘hope’ will help to lead us out of this pandemic if we all continue to do our part, by wearing masks, social distancing, and washing our hands! We cannot let our guard down yet… This week marks one whole year since we went on lockdown and began staying at home. Like so many of us, I long for the day that my whole family can gather together again!

I continue to be so very grateful for the diligent work of the scientists across the globe and those who volunteered in clinical trials, the dedicated doctors, nurses, and lab technicians (true unsung heroes), the first responders and the essential front-line workers whose personal sacrifices every day make a difference for us all.  I see you. I appreciate you. I honor you all!

Very often, the small moments take up the most room in our hearts!

♥ ♥ ♥

I’m thinking of you all

on this

International Women’s Day!

Stay safe and healthy!

With much hope,

♡ Dawn

P.S. Please let us know what small moments are bringing YOU hope right now. If this is your first visit, please say “Hi.”  We would love to meet you! 🙂

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Chatting By the Garden Gate ~ August

Hi Friends!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

My perennial garden is bathed in bright, sunny blossoms

of Rudbeckia and Black-eyed Susans every August.

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I would LOVE some tried and true garden advice ~

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

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

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

for six years now.

Nurturing the friendships we have grown is so heartwarming.

Writing nourishes my creative soul.

YOU inspire me to keep growing and blooming!

♥♥♥

Thank you for joining me

for a very chatty, garden walk today!

 

Stay safe, sweet friends!

Be well.

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

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New Growth…

Hi Friends!

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

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

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

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

I can feel it…

 Several weeks ago, I came upon these words

from the Baha’i faith…

 

“We are the flowers of one garden.”

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

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

“We are the flowers of one garden.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is a different energy in the garden this summer…

“We are the flowers of one garden.”

New growth is happening here!

 

♥ ♥ ♥

Hope you will share your thoughts with us!

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

I’ll be back very soon with the story of

this summer’s garden project!

Stay safe! Stay healthy!

 

Live a diverse life!

♡ Dawn

 

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Let’s Stay Home

Hi Friends!

You have been in my heart so often lately as we all walk together through this unprecedented moment in time. ♥ I truly hope that all of you and your families are well. How are you doing?  Please let us know…

If you are new to our blog, “Welcome!” Please say “Hi” in the comments…

My family is adjusting to all of the changes and just taking things one day at a time.  Here in Illinois we have been under a Stay At Home order for three weeks already. My husband has been working remotely from home. We have turned our dining room into his temporary office with his computers gracing our dining room table. I am trying to be extra quiet to help out. 😉 We both feel so grateful that he is able to work from home during this unsettled time.

We have both been taking extra precautions to stay healthy so that we can continue to help my parents as care partners. A few weeks ago, we began doing our grocery shopping online and having groceries delivered to our front porch to avoid all the stores. We have recently begun wearing masks when we must leave home.

At present, there are thirty-three known cases of Coronavirus in our town and over sixty Coronavirus patients in our local hospital. So, we continue to heed the advice of the scientists and doctors, our state governor, and local leaders. By staying home and social distancing, we are trying our very best to help flatten the curve.

Personally, this quiet time of staying at home feels like an unfamiliar ‘pause’ for me. Since the beginning of the year, life as a care partner had been very, very busy with doctors’ appointments, hospitalizations, and extended stays with my parents to help out. It always feels like an honor to spend time with my dear parents. They are still my best teachers as they show me how to live our best lives with bravery, resilience, and everlasting love!

For the past month, however, their Senior Community has been on lockdown. Everyone there is healthy… and they are using an abundance of caution to avoid the Coronavirus in their building. Three meals each day are delivered to their apartment. I’m so grateful that my parents have one another for company! All activities have been cancelled and their gathering spaces must remain empty. Everyone there is doing their part to Stay At Home. So far, it has been working…

It’s definitely a worrisome time, though, as a care partner who cannot visit! Lots of phone calls and Skype ‘visits’ are helping to keep us close, but nothing can take the place of real visits to help out in so many ways. So, it’s a challenging time for us. I am still able to drop off packages of medicine and other essentials at the lobby and staff members deliver them to my parents’ apartment. Last week, after dropping off a package, I followed the outdoor path along to their apartment and made a surprise phone call to invite Mom and Dad out onto their second-floor balcony. It was so nice to chat (loudly!) together for a few minutes as a family! ♥

Now I am savoring this unexpected ‘pause’ in quiet ways, giving myself much grace to feel all of the feelings. Reading, soaking up creative inspiration, writing in my Self-Care bullet journal, listening to podcasts, attending virtual WW Workshops, talking with friends, and writing letters help to lift my spirits. The online communities of creatives have been connecting with one another more often, as we encourage one another to share our handmade kindness with the world. I spent time tidying up my little Paper Garden studio downstairs and plan to spend lots of time creating handmade cards in the weeks to come. 🙂 I’m so very grateful that my creative spirit is slowly returning!

Spending time in nature has also been nourishing my heart and soul. I’m savoring daily walks through my garden, practicing ‘the art of noticing,’ as the perennials awaken during my very favorite season. I have also been taking brisk, solo walks (with lots of social distancing) through the neighborhood enjoying the sunshine and birdsong, as the Forsythia and Magnolias begin to bloom.

Unhurried time and ‘white space’ on my calendar have led to simple, new mindfulness practices. They are just small changes, but they feel very meaningful. During this heartbreaking time in our world, I have been even more aware of the importance of practicing gratitude. Every morning, as I hang the flag on our front porch, I quietly thank all of the doctors, nurses, first responders, scientists, store clerks, mail carriers, delivery people, and other essential workers who are doing such brave work while we stay at home.

Each evening, as I take down the flag, I think of all of the teachers who are working so hard to prepare meaningful lessons for their students while they cannot gather together in their classrooms. I think of the students who suddenly have to adapt to this new way of learning and their parents who have been pressed into the role of homeschooling. I also think of all the volunteers who are helping in food pantries and distributing boxes of food for those who have suddenly found themselves unemployed due to the Coronavirus. It’s humbling to see so many people who have come together to help during this frightening time.

I have also begun counting my blessings out loud each time I wash my hands! We are constantly washing our hands these days and practicing gratitude each time I use soap and water helps to soften the effect of all the breaking news. Although life feels very different now, there is still much to be thankful for each day. It helps us to remain hopeful that if we all do our part, there will be brighter days ahead!

Let’s stay home, stay safe, and stay positive!

♥ ♥ ♥

 

We are all in this together…

Please let us know how things are going in your corner of the world.

How are YOU coping with all that is happening?

 

Sending warm blessings for Easter and Passover,

Dawn

 

 

 

 

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Dreaming …

Hi Friends!

Springtime is almost here! Today I am savoring the glorious first day of meteorological Spring! The buds are already swelling on the trees. There is a brisk freshness to the air and the warmth of the sun feels oh-so lovely. Our afternoon temperature reached 57 degrees F today. It’s just a tiny taste of Springtime. 🙂

Midwesterners know that it is much too soon to put away our Winter jackets, scarves, hats, gloves, boots, and snow shovels. Last Spring, we had a surprise snowstorm in early May! As we wait patiently, it’s the perfect time to dream our garden dreams

Last week, during incredibly busy days, I made time to soak up a burst of Springtime at the conservatory in a nearby park. As I walked through the door, the colors and scents truly took my breath away. My heart spoke softly, reminding me to slow down, linger, and savor the gift of this quiet time in Nature. As the sun streamed in through the sparkling conservatory windows, intense gratitude and my love of gardening filled my soul with joy!

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul.”

  ~ Luther Burbank

“From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens – the garden outdoors, the garden of pots and bowls in the house, and the garden of the mind’s eye.”

  ~ Katherine S. White

“The lesson I have thoroughly learned, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.”

  ~ Gertrude Jekyll

“Gardening is an instrument of grace.”

  ~ May Sarton

“May our heart’s garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers.”

  ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

“Gardening, reading about gardening, and writing about gardening are all one; no one can garden alone.”

  ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

  ~ Frances Hodgson Burnett

 

“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; and above all it teaches entire trust.”

  ~ Gertrude Jekyll

 

Our gardens teach us so many helpful, important lessons as we cultivate our best lives.

During this challenging, very unsettled time for so many people across the globe, may we ALL work together responsibly, share our scientific research, our medical expertise, and our resources as we take good care of ourselves, our families, and our neighbors.

With warm thoughts,

Dawn

P.S.  Are you already dreaming any garden dreams?

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Winter’s Song

Hi Friends!

Winter’s song has been the soundtrack of our days here in the Midwest. While my perennial and herb gardens sleep under a blanket of white, I have been savoring the sounds of silence.

Whenever Mother Nature layers on another snowy blanket overnight, the scraping of a shovel and roar of a snowblower add to our early morning symphony.

Inside a peaceful lull warms my heart, as I peek through the white, lace curtains in the dining room window while warming my hands with a big mug of tea.

The comforting, familiar notes of Winter’s song continue as the tea kettle sings, the furnace hums, and our old, hardwood floors softly squeak underfoot.

Sunny Winter days cast silent shadows on the walls, as the temperatures outside plummet.

While Winter’s song serenades my garden beds as they sleep, my thoughts always turn to the ‘gift’ of my other garden ~ my little Paper Garden studio downstairs…

During the coldest months, it gets quite chilly downstairs in my studio. Before long my fingers and toes grow numb. So, on those days, I do all of my cutting downstairs, then gather up a basketful of inks, paper, stamps, and tools, and finish making cards upstairs on our sunny dining room table. 🙂

Inspiring supplies from The Greetery have warmed my creative heart all Winter long! Designer Betsy Veldman creates stamps and dies from her own paintings. This new, independent stamp company has quickly become my favorite!

It was fun to create tiny Winter vignettes using the BotaniCuts Pine Boughs dies from The Greetery. First, I die cut the pine needles from green cardstock. Then I sponged on Distress Oxide inks to add depth and texture. After die cutting the pine cones from kraft cardstock, I assembled the scales using Tombow Mono liquid glue to form each dimensional pine cone.

Finally, I added darker texture using Prismacolor pencils.

Tiny, woodsy vignettes made their way onto several one-of-a-kind cards.

Some cards brought warm wishes to faraway friends,

while others were hand delivered, with a big hug!

On another sunny, Winter afternoon, I found my inspiration in Betsy’s ‘Budding Beauties Winter’ stamps and dies. Usng a MISTI stamp positioner, I stamped Distress Oxide inks in layers to create sprigs of pine needles, winter berries, and mistletoe.

Next, I die cut the ‘Inside & Out Berry Branch’ from white cardstock to add a snowy feel. I die cut ribbons using the ‘Fit to Be Tied’ dies and sponged them with Distress Oxide ink.

Each one-of-a-kind card featured a different ‘Shape Shifters’ diecut shape from Papertrey Ink. The subtle background hearts were embossed using the ‘Drawn Hearts’ stencil from Simon Says Stamp, with an embossing mat and my Big Shot.

What a delight to create tiny botanical gatherings without stepping outside into our snowy garden! Winter’s song played on to the tune of footsteps running up and down the basement stairs to the Paper Garden to die cut and gather more supplies. (A nice, little workout, too! 🙂 )

Making cards is so heartwarming because I think of the recipient the entire time I am creating a card. Mailing off my cards, with personal notes enclosed to warm hearts, fills me with such joy!

 

My February bullet journal pages are also a celebration of my love for cardmaking, letter writing, and warming hearts near and far! 

The heartbeat of Winter’s song will play on for a few more weeks here in the Midwest…

but these Magnolia buds near our front porch remind me every day that my very favorite season is on the way! The birds have already been waking us with their early morning chorus. It won’t be long until I am humming a Springtime melody! 🙂

♥ ♥ ♥

Hope that you are carrying a song

in YOUR heart today! 

As always, I cherish your visit!

Thank you for being here!

 

Paper hugs!

Dawn

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Change…

Hi Friends!

There is change in the air!

Can you feel it, too?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?

♥♥♥

All year long, as I count my blessings,

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

I feel so very grateful for all of the friends

who gather here at our little blog.

Thank you all for being here!

You inspire me in so many ways!

 

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

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving to all!

With warm gratitude,

♡ Dawn

 

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Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Hi Friends!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

It was time!

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

As we carefully stepped inside,

such a peaceful, easy feeling washed over me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awe inspiring!

 

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

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

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

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

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

Heartfelt thanks, dear blog friends, for continuing to visit

over the past several weeks.

I am truly grateful for your friendship! ♥♥

Special family time is keeping me extra busy.

I still have SO many stories to share…

♥♥♥

Sending crisp, cozy Autumn blessings,

from my heart to yours!

 

With gratitude,

♡ Dawn

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

 

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Chatting by the Garden Gate ~ July 2019

Hi Friends!

Shall we chat… as we walk through the garden?

A tall glass of iced tea is just what we’ll need

on this hot, sticky, July afternoon.

Our Summertime weather arrived much later than expected this year. After a very cool, rainy Spring, Midwestern gardeners are playing catch up. In late June, our temperatures suddenly rose to ‘hot and sticky.’ Now whenever the sun appears, I run outside to do a bit of gardenkeeping. Heavy rainstorms often drench our gardens as the afternoon heat builds.

My perennial gardens are thriving with all the rain.

I just love watching the color palette change

with each passing week.

The Clematis is climbing so quickly that I haven’t been able to help weave its long, graceful stems through the arbor. It’s putting on a spectacular show completely on its own!

The Asiatic Lilies add a bright pop of orange to our History Garden bed. These plants have been ‘at home’ in my garden for so many years.

The Annabelle Hydrangeas are spilling over the picket fence of my Herb & Tea Garden. Two years ago, I transplanted a tiny root from the huge Annabelle near the deck, and it is really happy in its new home.

This week, I began cutting big Annabelle bouquets to fill crocks and pitchers for the front porch. It’s my very favorite way to begin my mornings! 🙂

The first of the ‘He Loves Me’ Daisies mixed so sweetly with the last of the Anemones to fill another pitcher. Mother Nature’s timing is wonderful!

Just yesterday, the orange Daylilies blossomed. Every year, my Daylilies bloom in mid-June, just in time for Father’s Day. Our cooler weather really slowed them down this year. All of the rain made their slender stems grow longer than I can ever remember. Some of the blossoms are at shoulder height this year! The Daylilies will be bobbing in the breeze for the Fourth of July. Mother Nature’s fireworks!

We have welcome guests in the Herb & Tea Garden birdhouse. There is a new nest inside and a mother robin can often be seen sitting on the peak of her roof and peeking into her doorway. The birdsong is extra sweet as I tend to the herbs in the Summer stillness.

Photo Source: Gardener’s Supply

We have a brand new addition to our garden this year! This bamboo Mason Bee House, a gift from a dear friend, should attract more non-stinging pollinators to our garden. There are over 140 species of native mason bees in North America. In the Spring, the females collect pollen and nectar and pack it into a tube cavity. When there is enough food stored, the mason bee lays an egg in the tube. Then she seals the end of the tube with wet mud and begins to fill another tube. Although I haven’t actually seen the female mason bees at work, I have noticed a few tubes have been sealed closed already. (Read about these fascinating bees here.) As always, I have several homemade bee baths scattered throughout my perennial beds. We want to encourage these vital pollinators to stay in our garden, rather than leave in search of fresh water. Large sweeps of colorful blossoms also keep our bees busy and happy! It will be fascinating to see what lessons the mason bees teach us this Summer! 🙂

An abundance of rain can only mean an over-abundance of WEEDS (and mosquitoes, too)!! I hereby declare that this will be the ‘Summer of Weeds’ in every garden bed. 😦  My time in the garden is quite limited and and the weeds are unlimited. Whenever time allows, you will find me hard at work, in one perennial bed or another, pulling weeds for composting.

Several years ago, I tested out a ‘friendly’ way to prevent weeds on our small patio. It works beautifully! First, I pull all the weeds growing between the flagstones. Then I generously sprinkle baking soda (Sodium bicarbonate) into all of the cracks. I water it in… and enjoy the magic! For several months, no weeds grow on our patio. Now I buy large, inexpensive boxes of baking soda to use as a natural weed preventer on cracks on our driveway and sidewalk, too. Have you tried baking soda as a natural weed preventer? Do you use any other natural solutions for weed prevention?

Our rain helped our Peonies bloom with great abundance in June. The palest pink, brightest pink, deepest maroon, and the purest white blossoms all bloomed at once a several weeks ago. I recalled reading a tip a few years ago in Garden Gate magazine about delaying the bloom time of Peonies. This was the perfect year to test it…

On June 15th, I cut a few, small Peony blossoms at various stages of bloom. I shook off the ants and brought the Peonies inside. Right away, I placed them into a large, clear plastic bag and tightly sealed it with a twist tie. (I also taped the bag closed, just in case any ants were hiding in the blossoms.) Then I placed the bag of Peonies on a shelf in the fridge. I waited and watched… and waited and watched… for almost three weeks.

The Peonies in our garden have long since bloomed and have been deadheaded. Wouldn’t it be fun to have just a few more Peonies to enjoy? So, just this afternoon, I cut open the bag. I wasn’t prepared for the amazing fragrance that rushed out as I cut the bag. Oh my! It was glorious! I admired the Peonies as I placed them in a small vase. We’ve never had Peonies from our garden for the Fourth of July! It’s amazing how one appreciates just a few small, delayed blossoms! They will have a special place on our kitchen windowsill. I’m sure that I will try this again next year. Next time, I will gently flip the bag over every few days to help preserve their round shape. This weekend, I will truly savor these blossoms… and my husband will enjoy having more room in our fridge! 🙂

We also have a BIG garden mystery this Summer…

A very hungry critter, with a special fondness for Coreopsis and Coral Bells, has been enjoying our garden, too. In years past, groundhogs could be seen gobbling up their favorite flowers. However, this Summer we haven’t seen any groundhogs at all. I’ve seen lots of bunnies nibbling our clover blossoms. (I just LOVE them! I really hope they aren’t doing all of this damage!) Yesterday, for the first time ever in our garden, I saw a cute, little chipmunk scurry across our deck stairs. Could chipmunks be our very hungry critters?

Hope you will share your garden wisdom and tips with us! ♥

Thirty-two years ago this week, I bought this cozy, little home with its big garden. Many of those same plants are still a special part of my beloved perennial gardens. My sweet mom taught me all about gardening and still shares her garden wisdom with me. My garden is one of my favorite blessings! I cherish the plants and the stories they hold ~ stories of the people who shared them with me and the places these old-fashioned plants came from. My garden continues to fascinate me, reward me, and teach me important lessons every day!

Enjoy the sweet blessings of home and of freedom!

Happy Independence Day!

Garden blessings,

♡ Dawn

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