Warm at Heart


Hi Friends!

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

Through it all, I have felt warm at heart,

while celebrating my December birthday with family and friends!

(Perhaps it is all those birthday candles! ūüôā )

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

Bundle up and come along…


A new annual birthday tradition began this year

with a wonderful day at the German Christmas Market.

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

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

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


As we explored the outdoor market,

precious memories of my visits to the Karlsruher Christkindlesmarkt,

in southwest Germany, warmed my heart.

The sounds of Christmas music and the smells of Bratwurst,

Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes),

and Cinnamon Roasted Almonds filled the air.


Handblown German glass ornaments are one of my favorite memories of

Christmas in Germany.

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

as a reminder of that special Christmas visit.


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

until our fingers and toes felt numb.

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


Traditional German Nutcrackers and Incense Smokers

brought a touch of Germany to the Midwest.

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

nativity scenes hand-carved in Bethlehem,

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


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

After admiring the intricate, wooden Christmas Pyramids,

Advent calendars, and glass ornaments,

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


I chose candle clips and candles for our Christmas tree,

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

Those special memories always warm my heart!


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

to children in many parts of Germany.

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

a golden crown, and the wings of an angel.

During Advent, the children write letters to the Christkind,

sprinkle them with sugar,

and leave them on the windowsill.

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

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

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

and close the living room door.

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

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

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

The children jumped for joy,

knowing that the Christkind had flown in through the window,

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

rang her bell, and flown away!

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

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

The warm memories still bring tears to my eyes…

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

and everyone surprised me by singing Jingle Bells in English.

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

It was a night I will treasure forever!


At the Naper Settlement Christkindlmarket, we toasted my birthday

with hot Gluhwein and warm, Bavarian pretzels!

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

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

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

in late afternoon cold, and headed for home.

What a heartwarming way to celebrate with a dear friend!


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

by making memories in a small town,

all decked out for Christmas.

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


It was another frigid morning as we drove west,

singing along with the Christmas songs on the radio.

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

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


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

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

warm at heart.


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


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

and snuggling under blankets for carriage rides through town.


We lingered in the Geneva Antique Market,

where vintage Christmas decorations filled every booth.



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

and headed home, as snowflakes began to fall…

warm at heart!


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

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

My heart is truly warmed

and overflowing with blessings!

I hope you are warm and cozy wherever you are this weekend! ‚ô•‚ô•

Bring on the twinkle!

‚ô° Dawn

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









Frost on the Pumpkin


Hi Friends!

The weather forecast warned us of frosty nights here last weekend.

There was a definite nip in the air while I scurried around the garden,

just knowing that the end of our gardening season was quickly approaching.

There is always so much to do!


It was time to harvest fragrant herbs.

I also gathered big bunches of Annabelle Hydrangeas.

A cozy part of my paper crafting studio for designing scrapbook pages.

This cozy part of my ‘Paper Garden’ studio is just perfect for designing scrapbook pages. A nearby stamping table is just right for card making. (Sorry that we can’t peek, as Thanksgiving cards are works-in-progress.) I feel so blessed to have this special place to create and share handmade kindness! ‚ô°

Now all of the harvested flowers and herbs

are hanging from the ceiling

in the ‘Paper Garden’

to dry.

It brings me such joy to have flowers around me all year long!

The last of the garden flowers.

The last of the garden flowers

As the sun fell lower into the sky,

my heart wanted needed

one last memory of the garden flowers.

So, I carefully clipped one stem of blossoms from each plant

and placed them into a simple, stoneware pitcher.

Containers of pink geraniums found a warm home in the garage.

I quickly covered the mum plants to keep their blossoms a bit longer

as darkness fell upon my Midwest garden.


I was ready.

Not really ready. It always makes me sad to bid the garden farewell.

 Jack Frost painted a coat of white over the garden on both Friday and Saturday nights.


Despite the chill, we felt the warm glow of Autumn fun inside.

Sunday afternoon was our annual family Pumpkin Fest!

Heartwarming memories are a key ingredient in our Pumpkin Soup.

We first tasted this wonderful soup three years ago while relaxing with dear friends,

on an Autumn afternoon

at an outdoor cafe in the beautiful Black Forest, in Germany.

A few days later, Sabine taught me how to make Pumpkin Soup

in her kitchen, as her lovely, young daughter, Hannah,

translated the recipe into English for us.

(Herzlichen Dank, liebe Freunde!) ‚ô•‚ô•

Organic Red Kuri pumpkin and potatoes

The thin, edible rind of the Red Kuri pumpkin adds both flavor and a deep color to Pumpkin Soup.

We always use a Red Kuri or Hokkaido pumpkin

to make Sabine’s wonderful Pumpkin Soup.

These pumpkins were much harder to find this year.

We searched all of our local markets and the Asian markets nearby.

We finally found organic Red Kuri pumpkins at Whole Foods!

(I might have done a little ‘Happy Dance’ right in the middle of the Produce aisle!) ‚ėļ

The rind of the Red Kuri pumpkin is very thin and edible. It adds rich color and flavor to the soup.

Oh, you can only imagine the fun

on that special afternoon three years ago!

Three dear friends, wearing aprons,

chopping, stirring, and laughing

in Sabine’s kitchen

while making both

Pumpkin Soup and happy memories!

I couldn’t wait to make Sabine’s Pumpkin Soup for my own family!


You can only imagine my delight as I stirred a big pot of pumpkin soup,

in our own kitchen a few weeks later.

Sabine surprised us with a phone call as I stirred,

answering all of my questions as I made my first Pumpkin Soup!

(What a blessing to have a guardian angel in the kitchen!) ‚ô•‚ô•

Pumpkin, potatoes, broth, and onions boiling.

Ah, the heartwarming memories of our Autumn in Germany…

now shared with our family here each October.

Our Pumpkin Fest menu

is always a very simple one,

inspired by two of my favorite cooks…

Sabine’s Pumpkin Soup¬† ~ Sabine J.¬† (recipe below)

Iowa Corn Bread ~ Susan Branch

Cranberry Apple Crisp ~ Susan Branch

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup, garnished with a sage leaf

Sabine’s Pumpkin Soup

1 onion, chopped

4-6 potatoes, cubed

1 Hokkaido pumpkin (or Red Kuri pumpkin)

          ♥    Put chopped onion and a little margarine in a large, heavy pot.

          ♥    Cut up the potatoes and add to the pot.

          ♥    Cut the Hokkaido (or Red Kuri) pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard.

                Cut the pumpkin with rind into chunks and add to the pot.

          ♥    Next add a pinch of salt, freshly ground pepper, and a bit of sugar to the pot.

          ♥    Add boiling water and vegetable bouillon (or organic vegetable broth) to fill the pot.

          ♥    Boil the soup for 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.

          ♥    Puree the soup until creamy and taste.

          ♥    A bit of cream can be stirred into the soup at the end, if you like.    Mmmmm! Enjoy!

  ♥  Guten Appetit!  ♥

Sabine's original Pumpkin Soup recipe

Hannah (only 11 years old when we visited) impressed us all with her wonderful English skills. After only one year of studying English in school, Hannah was able to translate the recipes for Pumpkin Soup and her grandmother’s special Linzertorte! ‚ėļ Hannah speaks fluent English now whenever we Skype. We are all so proud of her! What an amazing young lady! ‚ô•



Do you plan any traditional Autumn activities

when the frost is on the pumpkin?

Hope you will share…

DSCN3274Thank you so much for taking the time to visit today.

Wishing you a wonderful October weekend!

 Autumn blessings!

‚ô° Dawn


Fairy Tales…



Hallo Freunde!


Willkommen in Deutschland!

As you travel along,

discovering ‘Simply Irresistible’ European destinations,

we have a truly irresistible place to share with you!

Rustic, romantic, charming… 

Come experience

the quaint, medieval town of

Bacharach, Germany.

Bacharach, Germany

Antique Postcard of Bacharach, Germany {Photo credit: http://www.papergreats.com}

Just imagine…

strolling along the cobblestone streets,

church bells ringing,

villagers greeting one another with a smile,

and a hearty “Guten Morgen!”

Dreams like this

can feel like a fairy tale…

But dreams and fairy tales can come true!

Ours did!

Willkommen to the fairy tale that is Bacharach, Germany today!


 Bacharach is a storybook town,

sitting on the banks of the beautiful Rhine River.

This romantic village transports visitors back to the days

of medieval kingdoms, castles, and legends of old.

Burg Stahkeck

¬†Bacharach’s crowning glory is its¬†12th century castle, Burg Stahleck.

Bacharach, DE

Winding our way up to the castle,

we climbed stairs well-worn through centuries of footsteps,

walked along the sturdy, stone walls that once protected this city,

and followed the footpaths along the vineyards,

bearing grapes for the new wine.


Fairy tales…

Burg Stahleck, Bacharach

 Fleeting feelings drew us

back to the Middle Ages,

when Bacharach was the biggest wine-trading town

on the Rhine River.


Today, Burg Stahleck is a family-friendly hostel,

where guests enjoy the charming views

of the half-timbered town of Bacharach

and the picturesque Rhine Valley below.



Winding our way back down the path from the castle,

we admired wildflowers,

bravely growing on the strong, stone walls,

and delicate blossoms here and there,

as the first hints of Autumn filled the air.





Fairy tales…



the main street of Bacharach,

welcomes visitors

with its timeworn cobblestones.

Bacharach’s residents

are friendly and welcoming,

as they share their storybook town

with those who come to visit.


From the moment that we rang the tiny bell,

at the front door of the Hotel zur Post,

Ute was most charming and welcoming.

We knew that we had come to a very special place!

Fairy tales…


Visitors come to celebrate the new wine,


walk along the quiet streets,


and find beauty everywhere they look!

Fairy tales…


 The oldest house in Bacharach,

built in 1368,

shows off its small, round, glass window panes.

It was modern glass-blowing technology in the Middle Ages.

Stepping inside is to truly step back in time!

The house is filled with old etchings, photos, and medieval charm.

We enjoyed our romantic, candlelit,

traditional German dinner

in the “Altes Haus” restaurant.


We cherished¬†magical walks,¬†hand-in-hand, through the Malerwinkel (“Painters’ Corner”),

with its babbling brook, colorful gardens, and views of the vineyards above.

Fairy tales…


We hiked up to

the ruins of the 15th century chapel,


(built 1289-1430),

admiring its beautiful skeleton

as the afternoon light shined upon its ruins.


“No doors, no roof or windows,

a magnificent skeleton

puts its silhouette against the sky.

Above it, the ivy-covered castle ruins provide a fitting crown.

This is Bacharach,

land of fairy tales,

covered with legends and sagas”

~ Victor Hugo ~

(From:  Excursions Along the Banks of the Rhine ~ 1842 travel book)

Fairy tales…


Visitors come to Bacharach each day by ship, train, car, or bike.

Some visit for only a short time.

We are so happy¬†that we decided to make Bacharach our ‘home base’ for a whole week,

as we explored the middle Rhine Valley.


River boats and trains made it easy to enjoy the castles

in the most romantic stretch of the Rhine,

from Mainz to Koblenz.

We enjoyed the legendary Lorelei,

and visited the historic Deutsche Eck,

at the confluence of  the Rhine and Mosel Rivers.

One day, we traveled by trains, taxi, and a long walk through an enchanted forest

to visit Burg Eltz, our favorite castle in Europe.  Truly magical!


It was so wonderful to return to Bacharach each evening, for quiet strolls along the cobblestones.

We will always savor the small delights of dining in Bacharach ~

the German pastries,

the Turkish Doner Kebab, the friendly Irish Pub, and the Eis Cafe.


Our stay in Bacharach was simply irresistible.

The kind of fairy tale that comes along once in a lifetime ~

a romantic second honeymoon,

a celebration of retirement,


a wonderful prelude to our most special destination of all…


We were on our way to spend

very special times

with dear friends

near the Black Forest!

May all of your fairy tales and travel dreams come true!


With special thanks to Rick Steves for his exquisite guidebook: Germany 2012.

For every European destination, we use Rick Steves’ travel guides to plan the most wonderful adventures.

Thank you,  dear Anita, for inspiring everyone to share such creativity! You are simply amazing! ♡

Safe travels!


                                P.S.  Which simply irresistible European destinations do you dream about most often?