Creative Growth

Hi Friends!

The month of May has always been my happiest month in the garden. I just love watching the daily growth in my perennial and herb gardens. Last week, I took great delight in planting containers of annuals for our front porch and added a few tender herbs to my Herb & Tea garden. Our abundance of rainy days blessed the garden… and the gardener!

On the days when Mother Nature was watering my garden, I retreated to my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. It has been necessary to intentionally plan small, daily steps to nurture my creative growth for quite a while now. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron stresses the importance of ”filling the well” to help artists who feel creatively blocked. It was most definitely time to fill my creative well. Little-by-little, step-by-step Springtime arrived in the Paper Garden, too!

On the first day of my special project, I spent hours happily die cutting, layered stamping, and adding highlights with Prismacolor pencils. After several hours, colorful tulips filled my art table. Over the following days, baby’s breath, pussy willows, and cherry blossoms emerged. Ahhh, Springtime! With no pressure to design, the pure joy of creating began filling my creative well… and my heart!

All of these stamps and dies are from The Greetery.

With tiny pots full of Springtime blossoms, it felt almost like being in a flower shop choosing stems to create a bouquet for someone very special. Oh, what fun to clip together tiny paper bouquets! No stress, just pure joy!

Then it was time to fill my tender heart in a very special way…

Mother’s Day was coming… and this would be my very first Mother’s Day without my dear, sweet mom, Darlene. I just knew that Mom would love my plan! I could feel her smile.💕 This May, I decided to celebrate three very special young moms who have become such an important part of my life.

Especially for Ada’s mom 💗

I have known Ada’s mom for a very long time!! She was a student in my first grade class and my second grade class so long ago! For several years, she would come back to help me during her recess time. For many Summers, I looked forward to a very special picnic with her family. During her college years, Ada’s mom would drive over to visit us. She enjoyed picking her favorite ‘tea’ leaves from our Herb & Tea garden and sipping tea together on our front porch swing. My husband and I felt so honored to be guests at her wedding! Ada’s mom now works as a speech pathologist and spends her days helping seniors with Alzheimer’s and other speech therapy needs. She is also working on her PhD in clinical speech pathology. This month, Ada’s mom celebrated her first Mother’s Day! I look forward to meeting little Ada very soon.💗


Especially for Elijah’s mom 💗

Elijah’s mom has been a very special part of our family for three years already. In fact, she is in many of our treasured family photos! She works so hard with everyone at the senior living community where my dad lives. She loved my mom and my mom loved her! Elijah’s mom helps everyone living there feel right ‘at home’ each day. She is always so cheery, whether she is busy at her desk, helping serve meals in the dining room, or running to someone’s apartment to help out. I love to hear stories about Elijah’s day in kindergarten, his current favorite activities, and their family celebrations. Elijah’s mom and I have become ‘sisters.’ (I always dreamed of having a sister.) My ‘sister’ always brightens my day… and gives the biggest hugs! 💗

Especially for Emerson’s mom 💗

I have only known Emerson’s mom for a few short months, yet she has become a true blessing in my life! We are most definitely creative, kindred spirits. Emerson’s mom is the Bereavement Coordinator for the hospice that helped my mom so much last September. When I reached out for grief counseling for my tender heart following the sudden loss both of my brothers to Covid and my sweet mom to an unexpected medical issue, Emerson’s mom entered my life. Her extensive education, experience as a chaplain, and work in the fields of bereavement and spirituality enable her to help children through seniors who are grieving the loss of loved ones. We both enjoy sharing our thoughts and creativity with one another. When I asked her for homework assignments, she began suggesting truly meaningful activities that tap into my creativity in so many ways. I love hearing about her family life and seeing photos of Emerson! She just celebrated her second Mother’s Day! Emerson’s mom and I have been meeting together via Zoom, but we are both looking forward to meeting in person in June. I truly look forward to our growing friendship in the years to come! 💗

How do you fill your creative well when you have difficulty getting started on a project or hobby that you love?

Hope you will share with us!

Wishing you healthy, happy Springtime (or Autumn) days!

Take time to nurture your tender heart, too.💗

Perennially yours,

💗Dawn

Heart and Hands

Hi Friends,

The whole world is watching in shock and disbelief as we follow the unimaginable human tragedy and devastation that continues in Ukraine. Putin’s War has forced over 3.5 million refugees to flee from their homes in Ukraine in search of safety, protection, and assistance. The women, children, disabled, and elderly have been welcomed by Poland and neighboring countries across Europe. Ukrainian men, ages 18-60, suddenly became civilian armed forces heroically battling to save their homeland from unprovoked Russian aggression.

The whole world is also watching as the international community seeks meaningful ways to show our unwavering support for Ukraine and Europe. We will be following the news as the NATO Summit meets Brussels this week. Together we are stronger.

From my little corner of the globe, I have been taking small actions to show my unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. I will continue to support the work of World Central Kitchen with donations as they provide nourishing, hot meals, prepared by local chefs, in Ukraine, Poland, and wherever they are needed during this humanitarian crisis. Providing more than just meals, they are providing hope, dignity, and proof that others care. WCK is making a heroic effort 24/7 in this time of incredible need! Their short videos on Instagram offer a glimpse into the many ways that WCK is helping those in dire need right now.

I have also been learning more about Ukraine and their history. Last month, we watched the 2015 documentary Winter on Fire on You Tube. Although it was heartbreaking to watch (much like recent news reports), this Oscar-nominated film helped us to understand why the Ukrainian people are so brave right now.

In search of a bit of artistic outreach, I wondered what small, creative steps I could take in support of the Ukrainian people. For many years, I have followed the very talented cardmaker, Yana Smakula, who lives in western Ukraine. Yana is posting short messages on Instagram to let us know that she is still safe, but what daily life is like for her now. Yana is inspiring cardmakers everywhere, as she continues to make cards in her craft room in between sirens that force her to run for shelter! Yana’s dedication inspired me to find ways to use my love for paper and ink to support the Ukrainian people, as well.

I have been making small Ukrainian flags to show my unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. I have been sharing them with friends and neighbors who might also like to display them in their windows or other meaningful places.

I have also been busy making cards to let people affected by the war know that they are loved, thought of, and in my prayers. Inside each card is a personal, handwritten note of comfort and support.

I knew that it wouldn’t be possible to send mail to Ukraine in the midst of war. So, I will share my cards with a Ukrainian church near our home. I’m hopeful that they will share them with members of their congregation who are in need of a little extra love right now. I will also send cards to the Ukrainian Embassy in Chicago.

The sunflower has long been used as a symbol of peace in Ukraine. Sunflowers can be seen growing in the countryside and villages throughout Ukraine. Images of sunflowers are on several of my cards… and will have a special place in my garden this summer, too!

On the Ukrainian flag, blue represents the wide blue skies over their homeland. Yellow represents the golden fields of grain that covered Ukraine before the Russian invasion. Both colors are on the insides of my cards, as well.

Working with my hands brings me a sense of peace, as I spend time in my little Paper Garden studio creating ‘paper hugs.’

Just this week, I learned that it will be possible for my cards to bring a bit of healing to Ukrainian refugees in Poland. Artist Danny Gregory is collecting small pieces of art (no larger than postcards). Next week, he will ship a box (or boxes) of our art to his artist friend in Poland, who is volunteering at a center for Ukrainian refugees. She will share them with the people that she is helping.

Update (April 14, 2022): Danny Gregory collected over 1,000 small pieces of artwork. In the photos he posted, I could see my handmade cards of support and paper Ukrainian flags. The boxes of artwork were shipped to his artist friend in Poland last week. (Huge thanks, Danny and JJ, for helping the art community share our work and touch so many lives!) Next week, our small pieces of artwork will be shared with Ukrainian people who have had to flee their country since the horrific invasion uprooted their lives 50 days ago. 💙💛

🌻 I truly hope the recipients will feel a brief bit of healing, hope, and comfort just knowing that others care deeply. Perhaps they might tuck the ‘paper hug’ into their backpack as a constant reminder that we see them and support them, as they begin to make all of the difficult decisions that lie ahead. 💙💛

💙 Our blog is a welcoming place for all who gather here! Heartfelt thanks for stopping to visit today. I hope that you are finding ways to bring moments of peace and comfort to your days… and perhaps even a spot of JOY!

💛 Please let us know how you are finding small moments of peace during this extremely difficult time.

🌻 Take care of yourself, take care of your neighbor,

and do what you can!

Warmest hugs,

💗 Dawn

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!💕

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

Togetherness…

Hi Friends!

Togetherness, during this year of change, feels so very different! Thankfully, we are all finding ways we can gather while we stay safe and healthy at home. Today’s letter is a very long one! You will need a cup of tea or perhaps some eggnog. 🙂 Get cozy, sweet friends! Hope you’ll enjoy…

Longtime friends of our blog know how much I cherish the hand-lettered words and beautiful watercolors of my very favorite author and artist, Susan Branch. Susan’s creativity has touched my heart ever since since 1986 when her very first book was published. Six years ago, Susan’s blog inspired me to enter the wonderful world of blogging. I always look forward, with immense joy, to the times I can gather with Susan and her Girlfriends. We always celebrate togetherness as the entire room overflows with creativity, kindred spirits, and kindness!

A few memories from a book signing with Susan Branch in 2013

I was overjoyed to meet (and hug!) Susan for the very first time at a small, independent bookstore during her cross country road trip to celebrate her book, A Fine Romance. New friendships made that evening continue to grow today. Long after most everyone went home, Susan and Joe lingered to chat with us about their travels in England as we gathered outside around their van.

A lovely tea party with Susan in 2013

Later that same week, Susan gathered with even more Girlfriends at a tea party in her honor in Wilmette, Illinois. It was such a treat to hear more stories about Susan and Joe’s travels in England. As we all waited in a very long book signing line, dear new friendships formed among kindred spirits. Of course, there were more hugs as Susan signed my books!

Another delightful tea party with Susan in 2016

Meanwhile, Susan wrote and illustrated the next two books in her wonderful memoir trilogy, The Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams. So, she and Joe celebrated with another cross country tour in 2016. There was an even bigger tea party, in Wilmette, Illinois in Susan’s honor! Kindred spirits reunited that day to celebrate deepening friendships as we met more new friends. Susan has a such a wonderful way of bringing us together. Of course, there were more hugs from Susan! She truly touched my heart with her ever-so-kind words that day. Oh my! I was so surprised when she told me that she enjoys stopping by to quietly read our little blog.   Kindred spirits!

Togetherness suddenly changed for us all this year. Throughout the Spring and Summer months, while she stayed at home, Susan worked extra hard on a new book in her home studio, on Martha’s Vineyard. She realized that we would all need a little ‘extra’ Christmas spirit THIS year!

My copy of Home for Christmas arrived, hot off the press, several weeks ago. I carefully tucked it away until the first week of December when I knew I would need a little ‘extra’ Christmas. What a delight!  Susan’s charming story of her very special family Christmas in 1956 will warm your heart, bring back fond memories of your own, make you smile, and might even bring a few tears.

As I read about Susan’s family Christmas, so many memories of our family Christmas celebrations in the late 1950s and early 1960s danced through my heart! I’m sure my parents will enjoy this little gem of a book, too. The past few days, I’ve been sharing some of my favorite family Christmas memories with my mom and dad…

Susan shared her memories of looking at Christmas decorations in their California neighborhood in 1956.

Our family loved to visit my Aunt Judy and Uncle Jimmy during the holidays. Their Chicago neighborhood was a Candy Cane Lane, too! I have such warm memories of bundling up for an after-dinner walk down their block on Christmas Eve. One house had a large glass case with a life-sized Santa Claus playing an organ! Christmas music drifted down the block as we walked and admired the twinkling lights and decorations at each house. It was a Winter wonderland! After our walk, we would sit in my aunt’s fancy living room (Do you remember plastic slipcovered furniture?), sipping Christmas punch (while trying not to spill it), and singing Christmas carols while Aunt Judy played the organ.

Susan shared her joy as her grandma arrived for the holidays!

Our special tradition was always to celebrate Christmas Eve with my dad’s side of the family. Each year, we would gather at a different home for a magical Christmas Eve celebration! Several years, we chose to celebrate a different country each Christmas Eve. One year, we had an old English Christmas, another year, we celebrated a French Christmas, and so on. I will always remember my Aunt Gilda (a wonderful artist, teacher, and world traveler) illustrating the invitations as I carefully helped her color them. We would tuck a special recipe into each invitation, so that each family could bring a special dish from the country we were celebrating.

We always celebrated Christmas Day with my mom’s side of the family. After we opened our stockings and our presents from Santa early on Christmas morning, we couldn’t wait for my grandma, aunts and uncle to arrive from the countryside. Their car was filled with big surprises for the entire family. My collection of dolls seemed to grow every December! Each year, there was someone new to love and care for ~ Tiny Tears, Chatty Cathy, Poor Pitiful Pearl, Barbie, Ken, Skipper, and of course, a Dawn doll, too. (Did you play with any of the same dolls?) My mom always made a delicious, traditional Christmas dinner. We couldn’t wait for her amazing Christmas cookies to appear on Christmas Day! She had been baking cookies for weeks and hiding them so that they would last until Christmas Day. (Shhh! I might have discovered Mom’s secret hiding place for cookies!) 😉

Susan’s sweet illustration of her grandma’s car brought back a flood of happy memories, too! We had the very same 1955 green Buick! We loved driving out to the countryside every other weekend in that car to vacation at my grandparents’ home along the Fox River. In the days before expressways, it was a very long ride for my younger brothers and me! Sometimes, we had to draw that ‘invisible line’ dividing the backseat to keep us all happy. Most of the time, however, we were content playing Auto Bingo, as we searched for cows and horses along the way.  Our biggest adventure with our old green Buick was our drive from Illinois all the way to California to visit relatives in 1960. Since our car didn’t have air conditioning, my dad bought a special air cooler to hang on the window for that five day drive out west. Along the way, we made frequent stops to fill the air cooler with bottles of water. (Do you remember air coolers on cars?)

Christmas ‘magic’ always fills me with childlike wonder!

Home for Christmas truly is the little ‘extra’ Christmas we dream of in 2020. As you take delight in Susan’s Christmas memories, you will savor so many memories of your own Christmas celebrations! What a gift to us all, dear Susan! Heartfelt thanks for stirring so many precious memories of togetherness to help us through this holiday season! ♥♥

Of course, Susan wasn’t able to come visit us all this year in celebration of her newest book. So, she planned several virtual gatherings of Girlfriends over the past few months. Her gatherings benefited a local senior center and several small, independent bookstores.

Visiting Beatrix Potter’s home was a dream-come-true for Susan!

In August, Susan invited her readers into her cozy kitchen, via Zoom, to share a slide show and some of her favorite memories from their trip through the English countryside that inspired A Fine Romance. What a delightful afternoon of togetherness!

In September, just as our copies of Home for Christmas arrived in our mailboxes, Susan gathered with us, via Zoom, to share some of her favorite family memories of Christmas 1956. Susan was in her kitchen and I sipped tea in our dining room, with a special feeling of togetherness.

Yesterday afternoon, 1,034 Girlfriends gathered with Susan Branch for a final gathering of kindred spirits this year.  It felt like a reunion as we chatted, via Crowdcast, while we waited for Susan. There were so many friends greeting one another from near and far! From her charming kitchen, the ‘heart of her home,’ Susan answered our questions, shared her dreams, and told us about the books she is currently writing and illustrating.  We are looking forward to her book of beautifully, illustrated quotations! (Just my cup of tea!) Susan is releasing the first chapter of her upcoming book, Enchanted. This very special book is an illustrated diary of Susan and Joe’s four-month adventure in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. (Can’t wait to read about their travels in Ireland!)

Huge thanks, Susan and Joe, for inviting us all into your home so many times this year! It’s always a very special treat to spend time with you. You inspire us and warm our hearts every time, Susan. Sending big air hugs! ♥♥

Heartfelt thanks for visiting with us today, sweet friends!

I look forward to gathering here again very soon.

We all need a little extra togetherness right now…

Be safe! Stay healthy!

Warmest hugs,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Please let us know if you have ever attended one of Susan’s gatherings!

P.P.S.  If you type ‘Susan Branch’ into the search bar in the blog Archives, you will find many posts about Susan. 🙂

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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

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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Twelve Miles

Hi Friends!

Twelve miles!

Twelve joyous, little miles!

I’m feeling so very blessed!

For the past twenty-five years, visits with my parents meant: a taxi ride, airport security lines, a 3.5 hour flight, and a Super Shuttle ride to their lovely desert home. We traveled 1,800 miles each way to visit them and they traveled 1,800 miles each way to visit us. There were always so many happy “Welcome” hugs… and so many teary-eyed “Take Good Care of Each Other” hugs…

Just two weeks ago, we helped our parents begin the next chapter

of their amazing love story!

Best of all, they are now living just twelve miles away!!

My parents chose a lovely apartment in a brand new Senior Living Community. This new, easier lifestyle offers three chef-prepared meals each day, lots of activities, housekeeping services, transportation, and a very kind, caring staff always willing to lend a hand.

Their new community offers convenience, with several dining rooms, a small library, fitness center, movie theater, hair salon, and several activity rooms. When the warm weather arrives, there are beautiful outdoor spaces to gather, as well.

As their needs change, my parents will be able to move through a full spectrum of care ~ Independent Living, Assisted Living, Transitional Memory Care, and Full Memory Care.

The entire community is filled with inviting gathering spaces that encourage neighbors to leave their apartments and make healthy, happy connections with one another. Everyone is brand new and making friends together! It’s so nice to hear new friends laughing, making connections, and networking with one another. 🙂

Thankfully, everything went smoothly on Moving Day. After the movers left, our family began slowly unpacking boxes together, meeting the new neighbors, and gradually learning our way around the community. This is a time of huge transition for our parents and all of the new residents.

I have been spending lots of time with my parents each day and have watched them slowly embrace their new lifestyle. The other day, as I looked around the dining room, I noticed daughters sitting with their parents at every table. 🙂 We are a ‘sisterhood’ of caregivers! It has been very nice getting to know the other daughters, too.

Change can be extremely hard!!

Throughout this challenging time of change,

over the past two years,

I have been very intentional about counting my blessings out loud.

My Self-Care Journal helped to document

this very difficult cross-country journey

month-by-month.

My monthly ‘Gratitude’ and ‘Reasons to Be Proud’ pages

are filled with the people and moments

that have become a special part of our family’s story.

So grateful for…

My husband’s love and support every step of the way!

My parents’ strength as they endured our very long, unbelievably cold and snowy winter. Their first Midwest winter in 25 years was extremely hard on them!

The special memories we made together during their stay at our home! We proved that love grows best in small houses. Life was really cozy here in our tiny bungalow!

Patience… as repeated construction and staffing delays postponed my parents’ move-in day from: the end of December, to early January, mid-January, early February, to mid-March!! We just kept looking forward to the promise of a new, easier lifestyle that I made to my parents when we left warm, sunny Arizona back in early December.

Hugs… lots of hugs!

 

So very grateful for…

Excellent medical care when my dad suffered a heart attack at our home in early February. The paramedics arrived in just two minutes. The doctors, nurses, and hospitalist that helped my dad during his hospital stay were amazing!

My mom’s bravery during this frightening emergency! My mom and I stayed at the hospital day and night with my dad throughout his stay. My brothers and my husband were there with us every day.

The kindness of a dear friend who came to the hospital with cozy blankets, pillows, slippers, and a curling iron 🙂 to make those many overnight stays easier for my mom and I.

The concern of friends and family who called, offered prayers, sent flowers, offered to bring us meals, and sent emails and cards during my dad’s lengthy recovery at home. Your kindness will always be cherished by our family!

My parents’ Arizona friends who called and sent cards of encouragement.

Hugs… so very healing!

 

So grateful for…

My parents’ positive attitude as we planned for our mid-March move-in day! Moving is always very stressful, but we all kept making plans and counting down the days together.

So much help from my brothers and my husband throughout Moving week! We each offered our strengths: muscle power, assembling furniture, technology support, and detailed planning. Teamwork made everything easier!

New friends and neighbors!

The friendly, helpful staff at my parents’ new Senior Living Community.

YOU, dear blog friends! Thank you so much for continuing to visit our little blog throughout the quiet months. It truly warmed my heart to see visitors, from near and far, reading older posts each day. What a joy to hear from you, too! Skype chats and FaceTime chats added delight to my days! Our friendships continue to grow stronger and deeper. My heart is full! ♥♥

New beginnings!  During April, I look forward to writing more often, visiting with friends again, time in the garden, and adding a bit more creative playtime to my days.

Look for the small joys

tucked into the corners

of each day!

 

Warmest hugs for stopping to visit today!

Dawn

 

 

 

 

Simple Joys

Hi Friends!

Our cozy, little nest is overflowing with simple joys during this extra-special Christmas season. It is so delightful to have my dear parents staying with us! My mom and I have been singing favorite Christmas songs together. Dad and I have been reminiscing over old family photos and scrapbooks together.

When we trimmed our Christmas tree before I headed off to Arizona last month, I set aside a few cherished ornaments so that my parents could enjoy hanging them on our tree once again. It’s these simple joys that make our hearts swell!

Today Mom hung this beautiful dove that she

stitched with love

for my very first Christmas tree

thirty-eight years ago.

Today Dad hung this sturdy Model A Ford

that he handcrafted

for that first Christmas tree

so long ago.

 

We are all enjoying the love and kindness of friends and neighbors.

It’s truly heartwarming that so many special people

are showering my parents with hugs.

Simple joys!

 

On Christmas morning,

Santa will fill our Christmas stockings

with tiny treats.

We don’t need any brightly wrapped gifts

beneath our Christmas tree.

Our gifts this year

are 

our parents

gathered around the tree with us.

We all agree that this will be the BEST Christmas ever!

♥♥♥

You have all been on my heart so often,

sweet friends.

Thank you for being so wonderful!

   Your kind words and your visits to our little blog

the entire time I was away

mean the world to me.

May your Christmas stockings

be filled with simple joys

today and always!

Wishing you an abundance of

good health, peace, love, and friendship.

From our home to yours…

Merry Christmas!

 

With much love & gratitude,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Stay tuned for busy New Year here on our blog. 🙂

 

 

 

Simple, Quiet Beauty

Hi Friends!

Dark, storm clouds threatened overhead very early on the Summer Solstice as my husband packed up our car. (Meanwhile, I took just a moment to make our online donation to “The Longest Day” fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. It made my heart feel so good to help fund the care, support, and research so desperately needed in the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease.) Moments later, we drove off to spend “The Longest Day” and the next few days doing something we LOVE, while honoring special people we LOVE. It was a perfect way to celebrate our wedding anniversary! The reason was LOVEa whole lot of LOVE!

We set off in search of simple, quiet beauty, a bit of adventure, small town charm, and perhaps some antiquing, too! As we headed south, heavy rains accompanied us throughout our three-hour drive. Rain was also predicted for the next few days. We hoped for the best as we watched the skies.

Our destination was Amish Country in Central Illinois. Over the years, we have enjoyed visiting Amish areas in Indiana. It would be so interesting to learn more about the Amish people living in our home state. We thought you might like to come along…

This beautiful, quiet region is filled with Amish farms, picturesque small towns with brick-lined streets, quaint antique shops, fun places to eat, and the friendliest people ever. The towns of Arcola, Arthur, and Tuscola, just a few miles apart, welcomed us… and the rain stopped just moments after we arrived! 🙂

 

Amish families moved from Pennsylvania and Indiana to Central Illinois, beginning in 1865, in search of more affordable land and wide-open spaces. Today there are more than 5,500 Amish people living in this area surrounded by large corn and soybean fields, stretching as far as the eye can see.

The Amish people are a very close-knit community. They are hardworking farm families, who often run small, creative, home-based businesses. Roadside wooden signs welcome visitors to quilt shops, woodworking shops, herb shops, bakeries, and more in Amish homes. The Amish are very friendly and open to answering questions about their simple lifestyle.

Religion guides all aspects of Amish life. They have chosen to live a life that is separate from the world. The Amish believe in peace and nonviolence and do not pass judgement on outsiders. They don’t fully accept the modern conveniences that we take for granted. By choosing not to use electricity, they are able to avoid many of the temptations that would impact their family lives. The Amish people value simplicity over convenience and comfort.

In this area, typical Amish farms are approximately 80 acres. The average Illinois Amish family has six children. When a young, Amish couple gets married, they are usually gifted with a parcel of land to farm, from one of their fathers.

We frequently traveled the winding, country road between Arcola, through the tiny hamlet of Chesterville, to Arthur. It warmed my heart each time we passed road signs reminding drivers to be cautious of slow-moving buggies. The familiar ‘clip-clop’ of the horse and buggy feels like a gentle reminder to savor life at a slower pace.

Most of the country roads have wide shoulders that serve as buggy lanes. For safety, the Amish people use battery-powered lights on their buggies. We always used caution whenever following a buggy and slowly passed them with care so we didn’t frighten the horse. We also saw many Amish people riding bicycles on warm, Summer days. Although the Amish people don’t own cars, they do accept rides in other people’s vehicles when necessary.

Each Amish farmhouse we passed had a large tank to store gas or diesel fuel to power their generators. They use bottled gas to operate their water heaters, modern stoves, and refrigerators. Gas lanterns and oil lamps light their homes.

Telephones are not permitted in Amish homes. We noticed wooden phone booths at the end of some driveways, near the road, shared by neighbors for emergencies and business. Today some Amish people have cell phones that can also be used outside their homes.

Families play games, build puzzles, do schoolwork, and read together in the evenings. No musical instruments are played in the homes for that would be worldly. As with all farm families, it is an “early to bed, early to rise” lifestyle.

 

In this area, families are “House Amish.” They gather in homes to hold their Sunday church services. There are 22 church districts in the area surrounding Arthur. When Amish families gather together, they speak their first language, a German dialect.

Horse-power is so important on Amish farms. Farmers drive teams of 6-8 horses to farm their rich land. Their tractors have metal wheels without rubber tires. In recent years, available farmland has become both expensive and scarce in Central Illinois. So, many Amish farmers have also taken on a trade.

In the evenings, we noticed Amish buggies hitched in the parking lot of several businesses in towns. After the farm work is done for the day, some Amish people may supplement their income by working in town for a few hours.

In addition to large farm fields, Amish homes also have big vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Beachy’s Bulk Foods sells everything else that a family might need to prepare meals and preserve fruits and vegetables for the Winter season.

As we drove along the country roads, we noticed every clothesline was filled with plain, dark colored pants, shirts, and dresses. Amish women work hard using wringer washers to do their laundry.

Our rainy Spring in Illinois has been very welcome to our farmers. Instead of “Knee-high by the Fourth of July,” the cornstalks were already shoulder-high by the third week of June.

It was fascinating to learn about Amish wedding traditions. November is the most popular month for Amish weddings. During Spring, Summer, and Fall there is too much work and little time for wedding celebrations. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the the usual days for Amish weddings, since they are the least busy days during their week. An Amish wedding takes place in the bride’s home with a four-hour ceremony. There are no rings, flowers, photos, caterers, or kisses. Typically, more than two hundred guests are invited to celebrate the happy couple!

 

“Amish people are not backwards, nor ‘stuck in the past.’

They are constantly adjusting to the pressures of the world

and striving to maintain their belief and culture.”

“It is a very delicate balance between tradition and change”.

~ National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom

We enjoyed every moment of our visit to Amish Country. I have much more to share in future posts, including several ‘hidden gems’ in the area. One of our most cherished memories is the kindness of everyone we met along the way.

The motto of the town of Arthur (population 2,200) is “You are a stranger only once.” There is so much to discover in this patchwork quilt of quiet, simple beauty and we relish the chance to learn more. We are already planning our next visit!

Although we kept our rain gear close at hand, we felt so fortunate to have dry weather for our adventures. While we were away, my garden soaked up three more inches of rain. It was a delight to find the ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangeas in full bloom when we arrived home!

I enjoyed slower-paced days the following week

without turning my computer on! 🙂

Where do you find simple, quiet beauty?

Happy Independence Day to all of our American friends

as we celebrate family, friends, and freedom!

 

Make each day sparkle!

♡ Dawn

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