Harvest Thyme

Hi Friends!

Our hearts go out to all those whose lives have been affected by Hurricane Ian. The heartbreaking news reports and photos from friends remind us all of the power of nature. This continues to be a heavy time for so much of our world…

A peaceful, little visit among friends will do our hearts good.

Spending extra hours in the garden this week has felt so nurturing! Day by day, I have been noticing the color changes tiptoeing through the trees. Our shorter Autumn days and cooler temperatures are reminding us that change can be beautiful.

Our ‘Autumn Blaze’ Red Maple is showing off it’s ombré colors this week. Soon all of the leaves will turn a beautiful, deep, scarlet red.

It’s Harvest Thyme in the garden… a time that I always look forward to every Autumn! Yesterday I gathered baskets, twine, rubber bands, and my herb snips and happily followed the flagstone path to my Herb & Tea Garden. This raised bed garden, surrounded by a white picket fence, is truly the ‘heart’ of my garden. It always feels like the fragrant plants are nurturing me, as I care for them!

Lemon Balm, German Thyme, Greek Oregano, and Rosemary

I enjoy snipping fresh herbs and mints throughout the growing season for both cooking and steeping cups of herbal ‘tea.’ There is nothing better than fresh, homegrown herbs!

This week, I spent a glorious morning harvesting herbs to dry. I will dry some of them to use for cooking and herbal teas. However, my favorite way to use bundles of dried herbs is for decorating our home over the Winter months. I always feel nurtured by gifts from the garden!

Bundles of dried herbs hang along a wooden pole in our old-fashioned kitchen and tiny bundles of herbs hang in the pantry. I also love to tuck herb bundles into flower arrangements, baskets, and grapevine wreaths. Dried herbs and flowers hang from the ceiling rafters in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs, too!

Greek Oregano, German Thyme, Rosemary, and Lemon Thyme

I tied these bundles of herbs onto a vintage wooden hanger just to save space for drying. When I stepped back, I noticed how sweet it looked! Perhaps I will look for a place to display them right on the hanger.😊

Just recently, I learned about a clever, easy, fast way to dry herbs. So, of course, I couldn’t wait to try it out! I was so curious to see if it would work. Have you ever tried the ‘Subie Method’ for drying herbs?

It was an entertaining experiment…

Step 1 ~ I cut a bundle of fresh Greek Oregano and placed it into a paper bag. Then I folded the top of the bag closed. It’s important to use a paper bag so that the moisture in the herbs can pass through the paper.

Step 2 ~ I placed the bag of fresh herbs on the dashboard of my Subaru parked in the Autumn sunshine! 😊 I let the sun shine through the closed windows to dry the herbs. (Please do not attempt this while driving.😉) Most herbs should dry within one or two hours.

The Results…

It worked quite well. Since our temperature was only 68 degrees, I left the herbs in my Subie for almost four hours. I turned the bag over half way through the experiment. They were definitely drying nicely! The deep green leaves kept their color and shape. My car smelled wonderful, too! 😊

Dark rainclouds from an approaching storm ended my experiment too soon. I brought the bags of herbs in the house and the next morning they were completely dried! (I also tested a bag filled with Lemon Balm during this experiment, with the same good results.)

I look forward to trying the ‘Subie Method’ again on a hot Summer day. Next time, I won’t bundle the herbs with rubber bands for better air circulation. I will also dry individual leaves for tea. I will place a layer of paper or cardboard between the paper bag and the dashboard to help absorb the moisture, too.

My heart felt lighter as I hobbled to and fro in the garden. (I’m still wearing a special orthopedic boot as my fracture begins to heal. It’s feeling a little better this week!😊) Each time I passed my Subie, I giggled a bit as the solar power was drying my herbs!

Yucca seed pods, Rudbeckia seed heads, ‘Anabelle’ Hydrangeas

Next it was time to collect some garden gatherings to decorate our front porch. I filled an antique, wooden box with two tall, sturdy, spikes of dried seed pods from our Yucca plants. These plants grew in our childhood garden for many years. My mom, Darlene, gave me her Yucca plants when my parents retired to Arizona over thirty years ago. The Yuccas have rewarded us with spikes of lovely, cream-colored blossoms every year.

I added tall stems of Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ seed heads and dried ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossoms next. This Autumn arrangement is not finished yet, though! 😉 Today I will add a few tall stems of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy.’ This rustic arrangement will continue to grow and change throughout the coming weeks. I’m planning to add something new each time I wander through the garden. It will be a mindfulness practice focusing on gratitude for the abundance of peace and beauty that the garden provides us throughout the year!

Yet another reminder from nature

that change can be beautiful…


I thought you might enjoy two wonderful videos about growing and harvesting herbs. Relax and enjoy… with a cup of tea, of course!💕


🌻 Please let us know about some of your favorite Autumn traditions!

🌻 What’s happening in your garden this month?

Wishing you healthy, happy Autumn days, sweet friends!🍁

Perennially yours,

💗Dawn

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Inspired by Nature… Created by Hand

Hi Friends!

Happy Autumn! (Happy Spring!) I hope you are feeling well and are safe from all of the wild weather as the seasons change. Our weather suddenly changed from hot and humid to delightfully cool just in time for the equinox!

My Midwest cottage garden is flourishing again after several rainy days. The perennials are showing off their white, yellow, pink, and purple blossoms. The herbs seem to have doubled in size overnight!

For the past week, however, I have only been able to hobble through the garden a few, short times. I fractured a bone in my left foot and will be spending the coming weeks wearing an orthopedic shoe while the broken bone heals. My foot definitely lets me know whenever I have taken a few too many steps! Ouch!😢

Time in the garden has always filled me with creative inspiration while healing my heart and soul. No wonder that the garden is my favorite place to be! Nature’s colors, patterns, and shapes inspire my use of inks, papers, stamps, dies, watercolors, and more…

Bunnies are always welcome to nibble the clover, Creeping Charlie, and wild violets from our ‘meadow’ lawn. Recently, a few bunnies have been visiting my little Paper Garden studio downstairs, too.


Gratitude + Tag dies (Papertrey Ink)
Bunny stamp + die (Colorado Craft Company)
Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ attracts so many pollinators! I refill the nearby bee bath daily to encourage the busy pollinators to linger in the garden.

The pollinators have been so busy in the garden all Summer long. They have been making an appearance on my handmade cards recently, too.

Honey Bees dies + Honeycomb Corners die (The Greetery)
Sentiment stamp (Papertrey Ink)

What could be sweeter than using a dried ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossom, in place of a bow, on a gift for a dear gardening friend?💕

Oh, how the bees love the blossoms of Obedient Plant and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy.’

Our ‘Hidcote’ Lavender in bloom inspired me to add Lavender stems to handmade cards. I even tucked a few paper stems inside each card!

BotanCuts Lavender + Garden Gear: Gloves dies (The Greetery)
Seed Catalog background stamp (The Greetery)

Do you wear garden gloves? I always wear them while I play in the garden and somehow, I still get muddy hands.😉

These lovely Hollyhocks are blooming along my neighbor’s fence. We look forward to sharing our Hollyhock seeds with one another soon!
BotaniCuts Hollyhocks dies (The Greetery)

I’m really looking forward to harvesting herbs in the coming weeks. I’m going to experiment with an easy, very clever way to dry a few of the herbs. (I’ll report back soon.😊) Herbal inspiration is already on its way to my Paper Garden studio!

Just the other day, as I hobbled past our ‘Autumn Blaze’ Red Maple tree, I spotted the first red leaf nestled in the grass. Very soon, there will be watercolored leaves in my sketchbook and miniature twig wreaths created with ink and paper in the studio. I’m also dreaming of tiny, paper, patchwork quilts! So cozy!

Nurturing my ‘inner second grader‘ helps my creative spirit to blossom!🌸

Last week, I began my fourth consecutive Creative Cluster book study for The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. Over the next twelve weeks, our large group of artists from all disciplines will continue to grow as we travel along our creative paths. It feels like such a blessing to nurture our creativity in community with so many talented artists seeking joy!

You might enjoy the Artists for Joy podcast, with Merideth Hite Estevez, our very talented facilitator/coach/musician/writer/friend! (You can find it wherever you listen to podcasts. Always inspiring!)

🌻Thank you so much for visiting today!

What excites you most with the change of season?

🌻Hope you will share with all of us in the Comments!

Perennially yours,

💗 Dawn

Chatting By the Garden Gate ~ August 2022

Hi Friends!

Today seems like the perfect time to slip off our garden gloves and have a nice, relaxing chat over the garden fence. So glad you are here!

Hope you will let us know what garden projects you have been working on, your garden joys, and your garden challenges, too. 🌻

July 2022

This has been a very interesting gardening season for me with a huge, new home under construction right next door. I have learned to ‘go with the flow‘ each day depending on what is happening just beyond the tall, chain link, construction fence.

I’ve been enjoying every busy moment in my garden…

Old-fashioned Phlox, a bee bath, and an empty birdhouse

My new Sunshine perennial bed is now growing where our woodland Shade garden grew, beneath our towering Pine trees, for nearly a century. (Read that amazing story here!)

After weeks of digging and chopping long Pine roots, it was such fun to transplant colorful perennials to create this new border bed. I have been moving tall plants, like Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ to attract pollinators.

Bees on Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ (Autumn Sun)
Ailanthus Webworm Moth, with tightly closed wings,
on Rudbeckia seed head

This year, all of our birdhouses have remained empty. I’m convinced that all of our feathered friends have chosen to live in the new 4 bedroom, 4.5 bathroom ‘nest’ nearby! As I worked, cardinals, wrens, robins, and swallows would line up on top of the tall fence and fly in and out of the open windows. (They have very expensive taste!😉)

This old-fashioned Phlox is one of my favorites. It has been growing in my garden for more than thirty-five years! I deadhead the spent blooms and it always rewards me with more blossoms.
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’

The lovely, abundant ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossoms bring me special joy all year long! Throughout the month of June, I cut the large, white blossoms to fill stoneware crocks, pitchers, and large vases for our front porch.

As the summer progressed, I closely watched the lush ‘Annabelle’ blossoms slowly dry on the huge bushes. I was waiting for their dry, petals to turn a lovely shade of green. This week, they were ready!

Dried ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossoms

I spent an entire morning choosing just the right size, dried blossoms to fill baskets, an antique wooden box, an old crock, and a vintage pitcher with Hydrangeas. They will fill our home with sweet garden memories for a whole year!

A late summer wreath for our front door

Then I adorned a simple, grapevine wreath with dried Hydrangeas, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ blossoms, and seed heads from Rudbeckia and Bee Balm. It warms my gardening heart every time I open the front door!

Next week, I will gather more dried Hydrangea blossoms to save for Autumn and Winter decorations on our front porch. I will also hang more dried Hydrangeas from the ceiling rafters above my little Paper Garden studio downstairs.

Shhhh! Don’t tell the other perennials in my cottage garden, but I think Hydrangeas, Daisies, and Hollyhocks might be my favorites! On our wedding day, I carried a beautiful bouquet of Hydrangeas tied with satin ribbon. (I asked our talented florist to create a bouquet that looked like I had just gathered the blossoms from my garden!)💕

Dark Phase Tiger Swallowtail (We think!) and Phlox

I’m currently in the midst of another garden project. For the past thirty-five Summers, I have been hopping over Hostas and jumping though a large, naturalized bed of Daylilies every time I wanted to chat over the garden fence with our neighbors behind us. I’m getting older now, so I really should have a nice, safe path alongside my white, picket fence Herb & Tea garden all the way to our back fence.

So, I’m busy digging out Daylilies to create a wide path, adding a layer of cardboard, topped with a thick layer of wood chips. When it is ready, I will add large Pine slices (a final gift from our beautiful trees💕) to create ‘stepping stones’ along the garden path. Can’t wait for this new, easier way to chat over the garden fence! No more hopping and jumping will be necessary! 😊

Hosta ‘Royal Standard’ in bloom (next to a stack of Pine slices)

Our Hosta ‘Royal Standard’ plants were my biggest garden concern this Summer. They were thriving in the Shade beneath our Pine trees for over thirty-five years. In the Spring, I began dividing and moving these special Hostas to several different parts of our garden, hoping that they would continue to survive without deep shade. With lots of extra watering, all of the transplants have survived. I’m so delighted that several of these old-fashioned Hostas are now rewarding us with their fragrant, white August blossoms!

Very sadly. I have one epic garden failure to report…

In May, I splurged and treated myself to a beautiful Spanish Lavender topiary. It looked so lovely in a large container in the center of my Friendship Garden bed. Oh, how I loved that topiary!! It was doing so well for the first month. I carefully pruned the spent Lavender blossoms and it began to produce new buds all over. Suddenly, a very sneaky garden creature began climbing into the container, digging holes in the soil, and chewing on the roots of the Spanish Lavender. I think it was a chipmunk! I tried so hard to outsmart the culprit by carrying the topiary into the garage overnight for safety. I also tried shaking black pepper onto the soil in the container. Each rescue attempt only helped for a few days. Then the culprit was back chewing on the roots. In the morning, the topiary would be leaning sideways in its container. So sad… Soon the leaves dried and fell off. I continued to water my Spanish Lavender topiary stick to no avail. What could I have done differently to save my topiary???? I welcome any suggestions…

How is your garden growing this Summer (or Winter)? What garden joys are you celebrating? What projects are you working on this month in your garden? Have you experienced an epic garden failures?

🌻 Please share with all of us!

We just LOVE garden chats here!

🌻🌻🌻

Perennially yours,

💗 Dawn

P.S. I’ll be back soon with garden-inspired art from my Paper Garden studio!

Flow of Grace

Hi Friends!

Throughout each and every day, there is one ‘word’ that continues to guide me through 2022…

FLOW (verb) ~ to move or proceed smoothly and readily; forward motion; with abundance and ease; “go with the flow” (noun) ~ the creative moment when a person is completely involved in an activity for its own sake; showing no sign of stopping; performing vigorously and enthusiastically; “in full flow”

I can feel this current of change as I write my Morning Pages and as I work with ink, paper, stamps, and watercolors in my Paper Garden studio downstairs. This year, I can also feel the flow of grace as I head out to the garden each morning!

Photographing the perennials in my garden always brings me such joy! This year, most of my garden photos are close ups, with good reason.

The ‘heart’ of my garden has always been my Herb & Tea garden.

Bee Balm and ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangeas in full bloom

When I look up while tending the herbs and mints used for tea, the view has really changed over the past few months!

A mountain of soil is the current backdrop beyond the white picket fence.
Next door a BIG new house is growing, day by day!

Now as I walk through the arbor, there is an exciting, new view from my perennial garden.

My days in the garden begin even earlier now, as I gather my garden tools at 6:00am and get started. This lets me enjoy a whole hour of birdsong before the contractors begin working with their very noisy tools and machines at 7:00, on the dot!

My huge garden project this year has been redesigning the large garden bed that had been a woodland, shade garden, nestled beneath our two, towering 100-year-old pine trees. (See what happened here.)

I spent many weeks removing shade plants that have happily lived there for over 35 years. I tried to find new homes in other garden beds for hostas, ferns, European ginger, and pachysandra.

I bid a fond farewell to the grape mahonia and Lily-of-the-valley. Although I combed through the soil diligently to remove every root, next year should any reappear, it might feel like a nice garden memory!

As I struggled to chop and dig up very long tree roots day after day, I often wished that I had some of the heavy equipment just a few feet away beyond the tall, chain-link, construction fence.

After a while, we learned one another’s work patterns. The friendly workers tried to muffle the deafening sounds of their machines with big pieces of plywood to save my hearing as they framed the new house. Each day, when the contractors stopped for their 11:00 lunch break, I just kept digging. It was so lovely to enjoy the birdsong again while the crew took their break!

Once the large area was cleared, it was time to begin creating my new Sunshine bed! Oh, how I loved transplanting perennials from other parts of the garden that should thrive in this new sunny garden bed. It felt almost like ‘watercoloring’ with real plants! I transplanted beautiful, old varieties of Phlox that grew in the garden before I came 35 years ago. I added several Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ and Stella d’Oro daylilies. As I planted, robins, wrens, cardinals and bunnies stopped to enjoy the show!

Then I made several early morning trips to our city’s free wood chip pile. That’s where I met Jasper, a very friendly yellow Labrador, who also loves free wood chips! It felt so good to finally mulch the new Sunshine bed with wood chip walking paths. No more muddy shoes.😊

Last week, it was such a joy to scatter grass seeds along the edges of my new, ‘right-size’ garden bed. Although my plans often changed over the past weeks, I just went with the flow! I can’t wait until all of the transplanted perennials are in bloom. It won’t be long now…

I’m sure I will make more changes to the Sunshine bed next year. This year, I just used plants that I already had. I’d love to add a few native plants and some flowering shrubs, too.

The new house next door won’t be finished until December. After it is sold, the new neighbors will very likely put up a privacy fence next Spring. I’m so curious to see what kind of fence they will choose… and how my garden might change again!

🌻 The flow of grace continues…


Our hearts and prayers are with the families of seven beautiful lives lost and more than thirty injured by gunshots in the senseless, tragic mass shooting during the Highland Park, Illinois Fourth of July parade.

This is such a complicated, worrisome time in our nation’s 246-year history. We must find ways to work together to end gun violence, preserve women’s health, ensure racial justice and fair voting rights, as we care for one another. Enough is enough.

We can do better! ❤️🤍💙

Perennially yours,

💗 Dawn

Gifts of Nature

Hi Friends!

I bundled up warmly at sunrise on that February morning. My heart told me that there was something very important that I must do… and I always listen to my heart! 💗

I hugged a tree… two trees, in fact.

It was a day to thank our towering pines for the many gifts they have bestowed upon us for over one hundred years ~ homes for the cardinals and other birds, a playground for the squirrels, and cool shade for the hostas, ferns, and mature perennials that thrived beneath them. Such an important gift for our climate, as well. Every few years, an arborist would come to check our pine trees and trim a few branches. He always shared the happy news that our pines were in good health.

As I hugged the trees, gratitude filled my heart! Our pine trees have provided a magnificent background for many of our treasured family photos over the past thirty five years. They provided welcome shade on our deck for quiet mornings, yoga practice, family Fourth of July celebrations, and tea parties with friends. They shaded teacher curriculum-planning sessions on so many summer mornings. The beautiful pines were always appreciated as we talked late into the night with family and friends, from near and far. The neighbors enjoyed the far-reaching branches that shaded their family gatherings, too. What fun to hang a piñata from the lowest pine branches for their birthday parties! Every year in early December, I loved to snip a few pine greens and gather fallen pine cones to fill an antique wooden box and to mix with dried garden gatherings to decorate an antique sled for our front porch.

Our towering pines watched over many life changing moments, too. My husband and I spent many hours getting to know one another while relaxing on my shady deck. A truly heartwarming part of our first date, on a Sunday afternoon in July nearly twenty years ago, was spent talking on my shady deck. The pines cooled our deck and entire backyard for the special picnic where both of our families had fun getting to know one another following our engagement! The following summer, my mom and I spent a lovely June afternoon on our shady deck tying bundles of flowers from my garden with satin ribbons, to hang from the chairs for our Victorian-style wedding ceremony. Ten years ago, the pines shaded our wonderful family celebration in honor of my dad’s 80th birthday.

If those trees could talk, they would tell so many stories of the single woman who dreamed of owning a home of her own to put down roots so long ago. The moment she saw the cozy, little 1922 bungalow, with a swing on the front porch, a big garden, and two towering pine trees… it was love at first sight!💗

Alas, there are BIG changes happening nearby! A very large, new home will be built next door. Half of the branches and half of the root systems would soon be destroyed. Our towering pines couldn’t safely survive the construction next door. So, my hugs and thanks that February morning were also a heartbroken ‘goodbye’ to our beloved pine trees.

Just a few hours later, the heavy equipment arrived…

A week earlier, I met with Matt, the tree man. I had two very important requests! He must be sure to protect my mom’s beautiful Rhododendron that grew on the edge of my Shade Garden, beneath the long reaching pine branches. This large plant grew in my childhood garden and is almost as old as I am. It was a gift to my garden many years ago when my parents moved to Arizona. Every summer, its large, pink blossoms warm my heart! My second wish was to have several slices of the tree trunks to use in a future garden project. Matt promised that he would make my wishes come true!

Oh my! It was a sight to behold! As I safely watched from the door of our deck, Matt worked from high in the air with pinpoint accuracy, cutting long branches, dropping them in the space between my white picket fence Herb & Tea Garden, our deck, and our roof. Mountains of branches were chipped into pine mulch. His team of four worked with guide ropes, chain saws, helmets, and ear protection.

As I watched the crew from the window, they were also watching me! It must have been entertaining to watch the little lady alternating between covering her eyes, giving thumbs up, and prayer hands of thanks as they worked. The four, strong men on the ground performed a ballet of twirls, turns, and leaps to quickly guide the falling limbs away from Mom’s Rhododendron.

Our century old pines towered over 75 feet tall. Our little house shook and my teacup collection rattled as each thirty foot section of trunk plummeted to the ground, landing in an ever-growing pile of branches in the neighbor’s yard.

The white sheet marks my mom’s Rhododendron surrounded by fallen pine branches.

When there was a safe path through the yard, I walked out to carefully uncover Mom’s special plant. It was perfect! Only two flower buds had fallen to the ground.

(You can see my beautiful mom and her Rhododendron in bloom

last summer here. Such a treasured photo.💗)

I walked over to thank the crew for their very careful work and to take a closer look at the fallen tree trunks. That’s when I discovered it…

a final gift from our towering pines!

A huge heart!

None of the crew noticed it… but I saw it right away!

It felt like a final gift of love from our pines.

We will find a way to use the carefully cut wood slices in our new, sunny garden design in the coming months. Although our towering pines are no longer with us, they will always be a huge part of our story!

We cherish their lovely memories…

and ALL of the gifts they gave us over the years!

🌸 🌸 🌸

Wishing you many Springtime blessings!

Stay safe and healthy!

Warmest hugs,

💗 Dawn

Winter Gardening

Hi Friends!

Rabbit! Rabbit! Wishing you the very best as we begin this new month together! I hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy… and warm! Know that I am keeping you close at heart as February begins.

I’ve been singing this song for the past few days…

Today is the perfect day to take a little walk through my garden! In Illinois, we have been experiencing a snow drought due to warmer than usual weather throughout November, December, and most of January. Over the past few days, though, my garden has turned into a ‘marshmallow world.’  Last Tuesday, we had six inches of snow. A big snowstorm on Saturday and Sunday added at least ten more inches. (Just over 40 centimeters in all.)  Bundle up! Let’s take a walk!

Gazing at all of the snow covered buds on our Magnolia tree, near the front porch, gives me such a feeling of hopefulness.

With the snow almost to the top of my boots, I made my way to the backyard. The towering Pine trees look lovely with their heavy boughs frosted in white.

The huge Rhododendron (nearly my age) grew in my mom’s garden when I was young. Today it looks exquisite adorned with sparkling snow and tiny icicles. The large buds fill me with even more hope as I dream of the billowing, pink blossoms that await us!

The Yucca plants, cloaked in white, also were gifts from my mom’s garden many years ago. I’m dreaming of their tall spikes filled with cream-colored blossoms. In the words of garden writer Sydney Eddison, “Gardens are a form of autobiography.” So true!  I treasure all of the stories that my garden holds. They truly warm my heart… even on the coldest of days!

The Mason Bee house hanging from our deck has been decorated by Mother Nature, as well. Last year, we noticed that several new bees emerged as the warm weather arrived. I hope they enjoyed our colorful, old-fashioned perennials and the blossoms on our herbs and mint plants!

The snow reached over the top of my boots as I peeked into the ‘heart of my garden.’ My Herb & Tea Garden will always be my very favorite place to while away the hours, savoring the heady scents of the culinary herbs and mints for tea.

It looks like Benjamin Bunny was hopping through the garden very early on this first day of February! I have noticed so many different tracks in the snow the past week. In addition to the rabbits and squirrels, I spotted some unusual animal tracks in the snow. The neighbors on both sides of us have seen coyotes and red foxes in our yard recently!

♥ ♥ ♥

My garden is such a special blessing in my life all year long! While the garden sleeps, protected under a thick, white blanket of snow, I especially enjoy the blessings of my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. Ink, paper, watercolors, paintbrushes, stamps, dies, and stencils are my ‘garden tools’ as I enjoy winter gardening in the studio. It’s chilly downstairs, so I always bundle up and bring hot tea to keep me warm as I make cards.

The most wonderful stamps and dies, from The Greetery, keep me inspired to do a bit of winter gardening!

Sprigs of winter berries and mistletoe, created using layered stamps and Distress Oxide inks, are ready to fill tiny paper Mason jars, vintage bottles, stoneware pitchers, and watering cans for future cards. I just love the chance to gather garden ‘bouquets’ all year long! 🙂

I have also been creating tiny Shiplap boards to build backgrounds on cards. First, I blended Distress Oxide inks onto white cardstock. The Shiplap die (also from The Greetery) embossed the wood grain as it cut these little, wooden planks. It was so relaxing to create tiny wooden walls for upcoming cards!

Feeling creative during the pandemic has been a real challenge for me. Our lives have been turned upside down for almost a year now. So, I’m trying extra hard to spend some of my time at home creating more handmade cards. I’m certain that receiving a ‘paper hug’ in the mailbox will warm hearts… when we need it most! 

Are you finding it hard to be creative in this moment?

Have you been spending a little time in nature?                                                       

Are you already making plans to get your vaccine?                                                     

Hope you will share with us…  

♥ ♥ ♥

Take extra good care!

Warm, squishy hugs,

♡ Dawn

Changes in the Air…

Hi Friends!

You have often been on my mind in the past few weeks. I hope you are all safe and feeling healthy!

Happy Autumn! In the Midwest, the change of seasons has been a bit of a roller coaster ride throughout October. I changed from my winter jacket to a t-shirt and back to my winter jacket from day to day as I worked in the yard and finished up an outdoor painting project. I’m delighted to report that my huge project to ‘right-size’ three garden beds surrounding our front porch is finally finished! (I still feel a few aches and pains from all the weeks of digging.) Now the garden will be so much easier to care for during this busy time in life. In the Springtime, after more front porch restoration, I will plant a few favorite, old-fashioned flowering shrubs in the new, smaller garden beds. Can’t wait to make this garden dream a reality! 🙂

♫ From the cast of Hamilton ♫

 

It’s so encouraging to hear that, as of today, over 85 million Americans have already cast their ballots! Did you change your method of voting this year or will you vote on Election Day?

Due to Covid, rather than vote in person this year, we decided to vote by mail for the very first time. On the first weekend of October, we drove out west to our County Election Commission to place our ballots into a special drop box. It felt heartwarming to see a steady stream of cars dropping off their ballots a whole month before Election Day. (We were also able to drop off my parents’ ballots. They had signed the affidavit on their envelopes giving us permission to carry their ballots to the drop box.)  BallotTrax alerted us that our ballots were accepted and processed two days later. So easy… and never more important!

From early May through early November, if you happen to drive past our little bungalow, you will see our flag flying from our front porch (weather permitting). This has been my tradition for the past thirty-three years. It is not a political statement of any kind. Instead it is a symbol of my love for my country and my hopes to help make it better for everyone. Throughout my entire life, I have strived to help our country in so many small ways.

During the past four years, however, it has been necessary to show up for my country in more visible ways. “Enough is enough” were the words we chanted at a nearby Islamic Center rally to support our immigrant families. “Enough is enough” were the words we chanted as I stood with the high school students to support their demands to end gun violence in America. We sang “Silent Night” and chanted “This is what democracy looks like” on a frigid December night rally in the park for impeachment. This year, it has been necessary to raise my voice as an ally in support of racial justice for all BIPOC Americans. There is so much work to do!! I truly hope that change is in the air…

From Election Day forward, I pray for patience and peace as we all await the 2020 election results. It’s sure to take longer to count every vote this year. Our future depends upon all of us finding ways to work together. I pray for much more kindness, especially toward those who voted differently than you. History has its eyes on us!

This Autumn, we have been savoring the quiet, healing of nature’s beauty on our walks.

Watching the season change from week to week brings a sense of normalcy during such tumultuous times.

Change can bring new growth and new possibilities!

For the past few months, I have been really enjoying the chance to follow along on You Tube as the Wander Women thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail.  It’s a truly uplifting journey along a rugged trail through such beautiful parts of America watching the seasons change! The Wander Women are three retirees, Kristy, Annette, and Lynn who just love to hike, backpack, and explore. They began this hike on a snowy June day in Wyoming. Along the way, they have encountered heat, cold, long stretches with scarce drinking water, dangerous river crossings, huge elevation changes… and the most beautiful scenery along the Continental Divide Trail! It’s so encouraging to see the kindness of strangers they meet along the way. The landscape has changed as they hike about twenty miles each day. Every five or six days, they stop in a small town to resupply and Kristy uploads a weekly video of their adventure. So far, Kristy and Annette have hiked over 2,000 miles since June. They are currently hiking through New Mexico and have less than 700 miles to complete their CDT thru-hike. I so admire their endurance and positive attitudes and am so grateful for the chance to follow along on their journey!

Take a peek at this week’s Wander Women video (Episode 22). If you enjoy it, follow along! It’s the perfect antidote to all of the news and is sure to lift your spirits!

We have already had two days of snow flurries this week. So early! This weekend we will have a leaf-raking party (just a party of two!). Our snow shovels are ready. Change is in the air…

Stay safe and healthy, sweet friends!

Sending big air hugs from my heart to yours,

♡ Dawn

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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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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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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