A Red-Letter Day!

Hi Friends! 💗 A very warm welcome to all of our new friends, too!

(Be sure to read the Words of Wisdom post first!)

Wednesday truly was a Red-Letter Day! Susan Branch was coming to visit in celebration of her newest book, Distilled Genius! Excitement filled the air, as I arrived extra-early at Prairie Path Books to help out with any last minute details. Sandy, the delightful bookstore owner, and her talented assistant, Kate, had been working for weeks to prepare for a very large gathering of Girlfriends (Susan Branch’s devoted fans).

Knowing the crowd would be very large, I intentionally wore my mask both indoors and outside, only removing it for quick photos. I also spent lots of time outside. Susan and Joe wore their masks, as well. Such a little thing to do, that helps to keep everyone safe!💗

By late afternoon, Girlfriends began arriving. It was such fun to sit on the shady patio in front of the bookstore, chatting with Girlfriends as they walked up. It was lovely to see Jo, Ginnie, and her mom again! We have been meeting at Susan Branch gatherings since 2013. When Cynde arrived, we exchanged happy hugs, as blog friends meeting for the very first time! We warmly welcomed Doreen and Greg. It was fun meeting them in person for the first time, too. As we laughed and chatted on the shady patio, the line of Girlfriends waiting at the door grew longer and longer. Our very special evening was about to begin. I had no idea that there was a wonderful surprise waiting for me!!

Kate found me in line and asked me to come inside to help her. Of course, I was eager to help. After picking up my name tag and my copy of Distilled Genius, Kate led me to a table filled with homemade cookies, baked with love from recipes in several of Susan Branch’s cookbooks. She asked me to fill two plates with cookies for Susan and Joe. As I carefully balanced the cookies, Kate led me through the back of the bookstore, out the back door, and in through the back door of the large gathering space next door. I followed Kate, as she led me to a private, cozy space set up like a living room. Susan was sitting on the couch and Joe was sitting nearby.

Oh my goodness!! I introduced myself as I placed the cookies on the coffee table. Kate disappeared, as Susan and Joe invited me to stay for a visit. There were big hugs! (This was my fourth time to talk with Susan and Joe at her book signings. We enjoy one another’s blogs and keep in touch.) Susan told me which cookies were from her grandmother’s recipe and named all of the other cookies, too. They talked about their cross country trip so far, as they make their way to California. Susan asked about my family and shared very thoughtful, heartfelt words.💕 As we talked, Joe took lots of photos. I told Susan about some of the ways her books, her artwork, and her blog have inspired my life over the past 35 years! I shared the story of my white, picket fence Herb & Tea garden, inspired by her Summer book. I shared how so many recipes from her Autumn book have become a part of our family traditions. (My brothers, Johnny and Jeff, would often comment, “Mmmmm, This is really good! Is this a Susan Branch recipe?”) I also shared that I began buying her books long ago as gifts for my sweet mom, Darlene, who was a wonderful cook!

It felt almost like a little visit with Susan and Joe, in their living room, on Martha’s Vineyard! 😉 This once-in-a-lifetime-dream-come-true visit lasted about thirty minutes. It felt like old friends just catching up on one another’s lives. ( Oh, how I wish I had thanked Susan for introducing me to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Such a life-changing book on creativity!) I knew I must end our special visit so that Susan would have time to prepare for her big Book Talk. We parted company with more hugs!💗


When I walked out into the gathering space, a large crowd of 145 guests was seated, eagerly awaiting Susan’s Book Talk. There were Girlfriends of all ages, from 16-weeks-old to their 90s. Several had even traveled from out-of-state to meet Susan. Such a happy group, filling the room with joyful chatter!

Sandy, the owner of Prairie Path Books, gave a lively introduction. 😊Then she asked Susan to read aloud two special quotations from Distilled Genius. So delightful!

Words from vintage prints (Author Unknown)

The moment we were all waiting for had arrived!!

Susan captured our hearts with her wonderful Book Talk. She shared stories of their crossing aboard the Queen Mary 2, in May, with 90 Girlfriends, and some of the special delights of traveling in England. Susan spoke of some of her heroes, whose quotations she hand lettered and beautifully illustrated in Distilled Genius. She explained how her curiosity led her to learn more about these inspiring people ~ reading their biographies, visiting their home museums and gardens, and walking in the places where they had walked!

Throughout Susan’s inspiring Book Talk, a theme of ‘connection’ wove through her stories like a lovely ribbon ~ connecting family & friends, connecting to the wisdom of those who inspire us to learn and grow, connecting to historic places, and connecting to nature. Such important reminders for this time in our lives!

Susan closed with her wish that after reading and savoring the words of wisdom in her new book, readers might consider donating their copy to a school library or a public library!💕

Susan also answered lots of burning questions from her Girlfriends!😊

Then part of our group lined up to meet Susan and have our books signed.

My dear friend, Laura Ashley, is a brand new Susan Branch Girlfriend.
(Laura even has a pet rabbit named Beatrix!😊)

Susan really enjoys spending time with each of her Girlfriends. As we waited in line, we met so many lovely, interesting ladies. It was fun to see a beautiful quilt, made with Susan Branch fabrics, that one Girlfriend brought to show Susan. Susan even signed the back of the quilt for her!💕

Autographed copies of Distilled Genius are available
at Prairie Path Books, in Wheaton, Illinois! 💗

Another part of our group browsed through the lovely bookstore, enjoying homemade cookies and ‘bubbly’ while shopping. Other Girlfriends gathered outside on the patio to chat with new friends and old friends.

Our beautiful evening ended very late, beneath the full August moon. We will always treasure this wonderful gathering, stitched together with special memories and warm friendships.💗

Huge thanks to Susan & Joe and Prairie Path Books!

Perennially yours,

💗 Dawn

P.S. Our next post is coming very soon. 🌻 Bring your garden gloves!

Words of Wisdom

Hi Friends!

Oh, how I love words! It has been a lifelong love affair. I can still remember hours spent pondering just the right word while writing poems in a tiny spiral notebook as a child. On my favorite bookshelf in our living room, right next to our green and white World Book Encyclopedias, my very wise mother had thoughtfully placed a book of Bartlett’s Quotations. I really enjoyed looking through this special book of important words over the years. You can only imagine the boundless JOY that I felt when I unwrapped my very own hardbound copy of Roget’s Thesaurus as an eighth grade graduation gift from my very perceptive Aunt Gilda! I felt so grown up as I studied its pages searching for the perfect synonyms and antonyms.

As the years passed, a passion for ink, markers, and paints also captured my heart. After college, I began studying calligraphy, carefully practicing the strokes that would form each letter. Using my dip pens and bottles of ink for hours made for relaxing evenings. However, there had to be a more interesting way to practice than writing “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” (A silly English sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet). 😉

My calligraphy practice in the 1980s

My love of words saved the day! I began collecting quotations to hand letter and carefully copied my favorite quotations into journals of all sizes. As the years went on, I organized these words of wisdom into interesting categories ~ love, family, friendship, travel, home, garden, children, art, writing, seasons, meditation, … (I’m enjoying looking through the pages of my quotation journals today as I write this blog post.💕) They are still my special treasures! Although I have a Pinterest board filled with quotations and more quotations saved on Instagram, when I need favorite quotation I tend to look back in my journals to find the perfect words of wisdom.

Very often, as I write a letter, I begin with a meaningful quotation at the top of my writing paper. I also love to hand letter a quotation on the back of the envelope. My handmade cards often have a special quotation inside that makes the perfect sentiment!

As we planned our wedding ceremony, we chose favorite Bible verses and quotations from the Persian poet, Rumi. The walls of my elementary classroom always had large, hand lettered quotations from children’s literature, famous leaders, and sweet quotations from my own students.😊

For the past eight years, a favorite Wordsworth quotation has been the tagline of my blog. Often, my blog posts feature a favorite quotation carefully placed on a photograph. I compose many of my photo shots to allow space for words of wisdom.

Oh, how I love words!

Years ago, my life was made even sweeter when I discovered a very special kindred spirit! My favorite author and artist Susan Branch loves words and has been collecting quotations for years and years. Susan hand letters and watercolors her favorite quotations so beautifully. (Susan Branch has always been my inspiration for my little blog!💗)

Susan Branch, via Zoom, in April 2022

In April, Susan invited her devoted ‘Girlfriends’ into her home, on Martha’s Vineyard, (via Zoom) to share her latest book project. She truly believes, “Quotations give us the power to change our world.”💗 Susan shared her huge binders containing her artwork and collected quotations with us! Excitement was building as she announced the title of her latest book…

Hot off the press!

Just one week ago, my pre-ordered copy of Distilled Genius (The Illustrated Secrets of Life) arrived in our mailbox. What a treasure! Susan’s beautiful hand lettering and charming, watercolored illustrations make her collection of life-changing quotations a feast for both the eyes and the heart!💕 It was printed right here in the Midwest, on lovely, cream-colored paper, with Susan’s signature, ribbon bookmark.

Distilled Genius begins with a heartwarming Preface followed by twenty carefully curated chapters of wonderful quotations. An avid reader and lover of words, Susan has included quotations from literature, films, music, and famous people throughout history. I’m delighted to discover many of Susan’s own inspiring words of wisdom sprinkled throughout the 272 delightful pages.

One might expect that a devoted Susan Branch fan would quickly read her newest book from cover to cover. Although I have thoroughly enjoyed looking at many of the chapters, I am intentionally taking my time as I enjoy Distilled Genius! I am savoring each page, quotation-by-quotation. Sometimes with a cup of tea, often on our front porch accompanied by birdsong in the morning or the song of the cicadas on a summer evening. Reading this beautiful volume filled with words of wisdom deserves the gift of time. I know that when I come to the end, it will be such fun to start all over again!💕

My heart keeps whispering that Distilled Genius would be the perfect book of quotations for every home during these confusing, unsettled times. I can just imagine a child growing up now, who also loves words, reaching for this inspiring book! (Hint ~ holiday shopping!)

In a bit of magical synchronicity, just a few weeks ago, I saw Susan’s social media post from her travels in England. She announced that she was planning a U.S. book tour with booksignings at a few small, independent bookstores.

A favorite quotation from the German poet, Goethe, came to mind immediately. I dreamed of the chance to visit with Susan Branch for a fourth time! I should try to make that happen…

My fingers were shaking as I quickly messaged Susan Branch on Instagram and sent her an email. I took a deep breath and emailed Sandy, the owner of Prairie Path Books, in Wheaton, Illinois, to let her know that Susan was looking for a few bookstores to visit. I had always thought that they would be a perfect match!

Then I held my breath…

Susan was very happy for the suggestion. It turns out Sandy is also a huge Susan Branch fan. She emailed Susan immediately with an invitation. The very next day Sandy told me that the booksigning was officially confirmed!

Sandy’s newest display at Prairie Path Books!

The news spread rapidly among the Susan’s devoted ‘Girlfriends.’ 😊The tickets for the August 10th booksigning sold very quickly! I offered to help Sandy prepare for the big day. This is a very tricky time to be planning an event, with Covid numbers in the RED zone in our area. Susan will wear a mask and I hope that all of the guests will also wear masks, too. 🙏🏼 🙏🏼 It is such a little thing that we can all do that makes a BIG difference for everyone’s health and safety!

I’m going to enjoy this rainy afternoon with a cup of orange spice tea, words of wisdom from Distilled Genius, and a happy heart. 💖

Thank you so much for stopping to visit! 💕 Stay well, friends!

Warmest hugs,

💗 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

Pieces of My Heart

Dear Friends,

You have all been in my thoughts so often…  although it has been very quiet here on my blog for many weeks now.

Our family, like so many others across the globe, has suffered an unimaginable tragedy. My parents, my husband, and I are in shock as we grieve together our huge losses. In April, both of my brothers lost their brief battles with Covid-19 and passed away in the home that they shared. They were being very careful, wearing masks and distancing, as they waited for their turn for vaccines. We have lost two very special pieces of our hearts… and will truly miss them forever. Our lives have been forever changed.

I wish you had known my brothers…

Johnny, only eleven months younger than me, was my very first friend. We were even in the same classrooms from kindergarten through eighth grade. Johnny just loved to design and build things. He learned all about cars from helping my dad. Before he was even old enough to drive, Johnny was working on his own car in the garage. He found his dream job in the high performance automotive industry, where he became a respected expert in his field. Johnny loved building street rods. The dragster he built went so fast that it needed two parachutes to stop! Johnny loved taking his race car to race tracks all across the Midwest on Summer weekends. He spent the Winter weekends working as a judge at the National Hot Rod Association ‘World of Wheels’ auto shows. As busy as he was, Johnny always made time to visit our parents. He always called us to see if we needed any help at our house. Johnny loved to get together for family gatherings of all kinds. He was the first to arrive and the last to leave! His huge circle of close friends are a tribute to this very special man. Johnny’s loss leaves a huge hole in our hearts.

Jeff was eight years younger than me. Oh, how thrilled I was to have a baby brother! We always loved spending time together. Jeff shared my mom’s love for animals and science. He became a wonderful cook and baker just by helping my mom while he was growing up. Jeff shared my love of the French language and we would often speak a few words. He was fascinated by the Native Americans, the American Southwest, and South American cultures. Jeff really enjoyed his time living in a tent in the New Mexico desert digging for artifacts while he earned his degree in Archaeology. He was an avid reader and writer. Jeff loved films of all kinds and gaming with his friends. Whenever we had a question about anything, we would always call Jeff and he always knew the answer! Jeff loved spending time with our parents. He found so many thoughtful, creative ways to make each family gathering special. Jeff had a large circle of lifetime friends, who have shared the many ways that he changed their lives. Jeff’s loss leaves a huge hole in our hearts.

Together as a family, we are sharing memories as we grieve. My brothers’ friends have been helping us all through this deeply sad time. I feel so grateful for the love that surrounds us all. Prayers, cards, letters, flowers, memorial gifts, and donations to the Alzheimer’s Association (our family’s favorite charity) from friends, near and far, are helping us through this very difficult time.

I hope to make time for blogging again soon. I truly miss the places we gather and share our lives. Be well, my friends!

With much love,

♡ Dawn

64 Words

Hi Friends,

Our stories truly do matter!

Today I am celebrating the power of words

as I document a bit of my story.

Adventures

Antiques

Artistic

Birthdays

Blessings

For each of the past eight years, I have focused on a ‘word.’ Throughout our home, there are visible reminders of each word. This year I created Word Stones for my Friendship Garden to carry this mindfulness practice into the garden, too! 🙂

Blogging

Blossom

Books

Breathe

Candlelight

Cards

I just LOVE creating handmade cards in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs! Each one feels like a little ‘visit’ with a loved one the entire time I am working with paper and ink. Mailing cards off to warm hearts brings me so much joy!

Cherish

Children

Chocolate

Connecting

Coziness

A cup of herbal tea, a good book, soft candlelight, and favorite music add such coziness to cold, Winter days!

Creativity

Dancing

Dancing has always been a special part of my life. I can still remember standing on my daddy’s feet and dancing together in the living room as a young child. I loved taking ballet lessons while growing up. During my college years, we all loved disco dancing on the weekends. This year, I’m having a fabulous time line dancing every week at our Senior Center. It’s boot scootin’ fun… and we laugh a lot! Gotta dance!! 🙂

Daisy

Dawn

Dawn is my favorite time of day. 🙂 Each sunrise means a new beginning with new possibilities!

Earth-friendly

Explore

Family

Friendship

Gather

Garden

Gardening with perennials and herbs is one of my passions! My Friendship Garden bed (in the foreground) is filled with perennials given to me over the years from gardening friends.

Grace

Gratitude

Handmade

Happiness

Heartfelt

Herbs

The ‘heart’ of my garden is my Herb & Tea garden, built with love, and surrounded by a white, picket fence.

Home

Hope

Hydrangea

Oh, how I love Hydrangeas (and Daisies)! My wedding bouquet was filled with Hydrangeas. I asked the florist to create a simple bouquet that looked as if I just walked through the garden picking blossoms. It was perfect!

Inky

Inspired

Intentional

Invite

Journals

Morning Pages inspire my creative journey. Looking back through my Garden Journal warms the coldest of Winter days. For the past two years, my Self-Care bullet journals have taught me so much. I can’t wait to begin my 2020 bullet journal. Journaling is one important way that I nourish my creative heart and soul! ♥

Joy

Kindness

Learning

Letters

Love

Memories

Mindfulness

Music

Namaste

Nourish

Old-Fashioned

Paper

Perennials

Positive

Present

Renaissance

My Renaissance (the ‘R’ word that I use for my Retirement) is such a wonderful gift of TIME. After thirty-five happy years of teaching young children, I continue the same goals that guided my teaching ~ learn something new every day, be creative, and make a difference! ♥

Restore

Self-Care

Serendipity

Story

Sunshine

I carry sunshine in my soul each day. It’s a way of life!

Teacups

Teacher

Walking

Oh, the places I’ve walked! I enjoy walking along the prairie, in the desert, on foreign cobblestones, through the woods, and on beaches along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. When my sweet husband and I first met, many of our dates were spent walking hand-in-hand along sparkling water. We got to know one another as we walked along rivers, ponds, lakes, creeks, waterfalls, and a peaceful bog. He even proposed on a very special hike in one of our favorite places! 🙂

♥♥♥

Every single word on this list holds a part of my life story!

It was such fun to create my long list of words,

and a challenge to edit my list.

(There were so many more words that I wanted to include!)

What words would you include on your list?

Today’s post was inspired by Stacy Julian, one of my favorite Memory Keepers, Storytellers, and Scrapbookers. Stacy’s podcast, Exactly Enough Time (Episode 20 ~ “Words I Love”) resonated with me several months ago. I’m so grateful for her inspiration! As time goes on, I hope to share a bit more of my story here…

I’m hoping that you might feel inspired to tell your story, too.

Our stories truly do matter!

 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Warmest hugs,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Prickly Times…

Hello, sweet friends!

It feels so good to be back home again! We have lots of catching up to do here in our little gathering place of kindred spirits. I have really missed you all. Heartfelt thanks for stopping to visit today!

I have spent the past several months with my dear parents in Arizona. Well into their 80s now, Mom and Dad began needing a little extra help earlier this year. It has been my honor to spend extra time helping out and making plans with my parents. For health reasons, Dad and Mom decided that it was time to make a BIG move, back home to Illinois to be close to their children.

After twenty-four happy, healthy years of desert living, their Retirement dream was taking a most unexpected turn. My parents faced very difficult choices… and many months of ‘prickly’ times. There were so many hard decisions to be made. Working side-by-side, our days were extremely busy. We donated so many cherished items to charitable causes. Finding good homes for beloved antiques and collectibles proved to be a true ‘labor of love.’ So many avid collectors were grateful to become the new owners of my dad’s Lionel trains and antique telephones. My mom’s vintage irons, beautiful, old crocks, oil lamps, antique kitchen tools, and many pieces of Southwest art all went to new homes, one-by-one. ‘Prickly,’ but important, work…

Preparing to sell their lovely, desert home in the foothills of Red Mountain just made our hearts so sad. With the Tonto National Forest just a short walk away, it is a nature lover’s paradise. My parents built their home with breathtaking views of Red Mountain, the Superstition Mountains, and the Usery Mountains. Moving away from longtime friends and special places was the most ‘prickly’ time of all.

Packing boxes, boxes, and more boxes filled our days and weeks. My dad shipped his car back to Illinois. A great pair of movers loaded up a few special pieces of furniture and many boxes filled with family photos and mementos.

After the moving truck pulled away, we were all lost in our thoughts.

It was all feeling very real now…

We took our last long drive through the Tonto National Forest, admiring the mountains, the giant Saguaros, and the wildflowers in bloom. We reminisced about all of our favorite hiking places, remembered picnics at Saguaro Lake, and waved farewell to the beautiful ‘secret place’ in the desert where my husband proposed to me. We all hold so many heartwarming memories of special times in the desert over the years. My mom chose a few favorite rocks from her lovely, desert garden to bring along as special mementos.

Unforgettable, beautiful, heartbreaking, ‘prickly’ times for us all…

After special gatherings with dear friends and a few nights in a hotel, my parents and I flew back to the Midwest together just two weeks ago. Together we knew we were flying toward our next adventure ~ a brave, new chapter in all of our lives. We have been a great team through all the ‘prickly’ times. I have learned so many important lessons over the past months. My parents will always be my first and best teachers!

Throughout my life there have been several challenges,

but this has truly been the most difficult thing

I have experienced so far.

Tears have filled my eyes so often over the past months.

Throughout the ‘prickly’ times this year, I always looked for blossoms…

and counted my many blessings out loud.

It really helped!

Making time for walks in nature always soothed my tender heart.

Sunrise walks filled my soul with sunshine for the day ahead. Walking many miles each week was an important part of my self-care during this very stressful, ‘prickly’ time. Remembering my ‘why’ and tracking my foods on the WW app daily have helped me maintain my healthy weight goal. 🙂  Good health is such a wonderful blessing!

Early mornings spent pulling unfamiliar weeds (using pliers) from the dry, red earth in my mom’s garden reminded me of the gift of gardening Mom gave me thirty-one years ago. What a blessing! My life has been enriched in so many ways since I inherited Mom’s love of gardening.

Sunset walks were the perfect way to connect with my husband each evening. FaceTime allowed us to walk together, although we were 1,800 miles apart. Sharing the stories of our days made it easier for both of us.

My sweet husband has been my ‘rock’ and constantly helps in so many ways. Throughout the Summer months, each evening after work, he deadheaded my ‘He Loves Me’ daisies, so that they would be in full bloom each time I returned home for a brief visit. When the seasons changed, he took such good care of our little ‘igloo’ throughout the big November blizzard. Storm damage left our home without power for several days. So, he worked with a neighbor to prevent our water pipes from freezing in our dark, frigid home. He researched and helped arrange moving plans from across the miles. A great listener, he can always make me laugh. My dear husband is a truly great blessing in my life!

I’m so blessed by friends, both near and far. Quick texts, long emails, and encouraging WhatsApp messages were most welcome day brighteners while I was away from home for extended times. Beautiful cards and letters always warmed my heart. We are so grateful for the kindness of our friends! A perfectly-timed ride home from the airport in a friend’s toasty, warm SUV (complete with a cozy, lap blanket for my parents) was an extra-special ‘welcome home’ on a cold December day.  A friendly visit delivering hugs and homemade turkey noodle soup warmed our hearts and tummies. Heartfelt thanks, dear, sweet friends!

Each day, as I quickly checked our little blog, it was so heartwarming to know that friends were stopping to read stories from the blog archives. I could feel our connection and was both humbled and grateful for the powerful friendships that have grown here over the years. I’m looking forward to blogging often in the New Year… and finally making time to visit my blogging friends again!

We felt so blessed that my parents’ beautiful, desert home sold in just ONE day! We were very grateful when the buyers visited and promised to take extra good care of this special place. We were so fortunate that our moving plans and travel plans all went very smoothly. Such a big blessing for us all!

After a long, cross country trip, the movers delivered everything safely to a nearby storage unit. Family heirlooms were handled with extra care. We were so grateful to see the big, orange truck pull up last week! Local movers will help with the next stage of the move in January, when my parents’ beautiful, new apartment will be ready.

After spending time in the desert in the Springtime and experiencing this Summer’s Monsoon season, I was delighted to arrive home for a brilliant, instant blast of Autumn color. I was so blessed that the beautiful leaves waited for me!

We packed lots of Autumn walks into my two-week visit home! It was so refreshing after the long, hot Summer days in the desert. (This year, the Phoenix area had over 125 days of triple-digit heat! Whew!)

No matter where I roam, the Midwest always feels like home to me!

I embrace the change of seasons,

with the blessings each one brings.

 

In spite of the ‘prickly’ times, it has been a very special blessing to experience ALL of the seasons in the desert Southwest this year. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn so much about the desert plants over the past 24 years. Walking with my mom is always a wonderful gardening lesson! I have also learned to beware of the desert creatures. It’s still the ‘wild west’ with coyotes, scorpions, lizards, and rattlesnakes passing through! Over the years, I have learned so much about the Native American people. I will always hold the call of the drums at the Harvest Pow Wow on the Pima-Maricopa reservation close to my heart. It was a remarkable cultural experience.  I truly understand why the Arizona desert will always have a special place in my parents’ hearts!

My greatest blessings of all are my dear, sweet parents! ♥♥

I cherish every precious moment with them!

We have been enjoying old family memories

and look forward to sharing as much joy

as we can squeeze into the coming years!

 

Hugs and simple joys,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Matters of the Heart…

creativity

Hi Friends!

As the winter days and weeks pass, I have been on the most wonderful, heartwarming journey! This path has led me to lovely places of inspiration, time in nature, quiet hours of thinking and journaling, and most importantly, creative time in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. Matters of the heart… most certainly!

img_1297

All year long, I am focusing on nourishing my creative heart and soul. It feels great… and has yielded happy discoveries that warm my heart and assure me that this journey is a truly important one!  One of my ‘guides’ on this journey is the inspiring book, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again (An Artist’s Way Program for Retirees and Other Creative Souls), by Julia Cameron. Enjoy this post from January to see how this journey began.

img_1298

Several times a week, I now begin my days by writing Morning Pages. It has become a quiet time of discovery, connections, and enthusiastic planning for my creative hours in the studio. One of my favorite discoveries has been the creative ‘ribbon’ that has curled throughout my entire life! From the ages of 8, 18, 28 and into my Renaissance (the ‘R’ word that I use for my retirement), my love for lettering, playing with inks and watercolors, photography, making cards, writing letters, and collecting quotes has always had a special place in my heart. So many sweet memories… I thought about my childhood journals. I remembered my early years as a teacher, with no money for art supplies, when I would heat emboss sentiments for cards over my toaster (not recommended!). I recalled having the entire kitchen floor of my apartment covered with handpainted green flourishes drying as I created Christmas cards. I smiled as I thought about all of the famous quotations, lettered with pen and nib and black ink on parchment, that decorated the long staircase up to my apartment. (They were my homework assignments from years of Calligraphy classes in my 20s ~ perfect for decorating on a budget!) I can still hear my friends saying, “You can get a college education just climbing the stairs to Dawn’s apartment.”  Yes, truly… matters of the heart!

So, it was a joy during the past few weeks to be able to nourish my creative heart by attending two lettering workshops, a cardmaking workshop, and two Saturday Papercrafting Crop days with my crafty ‘tribe.’  I have spent so many mornings enjoying glorious time in the studio… feeling fresh and inspired!

steinquote

Weekly Artist’s Dates have become one of my favorite parts of The Artist’s Way program. Taking the time to nourish my creative spirit makes even familiar, favorite places seem new again!  While walking through beautiful Orchid Greenhouses I thought about the color combinations on the blossoms.

Rather than shopping, I wandered through my favorite store, Crate&Barrel, with a whole new purpose. I looked at patterns, textures, and colors for inspiration.

patternscolors

Crate&Barrel pottery

The textures, patterns, and colors on upholstery fabric and duvet covers caught my attention. Paisley patterns danced in my head for days. 

colorstextures

Crate&Barrel fabrics

Matters of the heart… 

It was time to create some Paisley patterns of my own, using paper and ink!

paisley

Supplies: Papertrey Ink stamp, SU Dye inks, Distress Inks, Ranger blending tool, Strathmore Bristol Smooth paper

paisley2

Supplies: Papertrey Ink stamp, Papertrey Ink Dye ink, SU Dye inks, Distress Inks, Ranger blending tool, Strathmore Bristol Smooth paper, Uni-ball Signo gel pen (White details inspired by Kathy Racoosin’s beautiful designs!)

A rare warm, sunny January afternoon inspired an Artist’s Date at the Morton Arboretum.  As I strolled along the beautiful ‘Conifer Path’ I was immersed in the heady evergreen scents. Nature’s scents are what I miss the most in the middle of winter. I noticed all of the shades of green and the forms of the needle-filled branches.

conifers

Now I look forward to creating some evergreen branches of my own using watercolors

and perhaps adding a hand lettered quotation.

These are matters of the heart…  that nourish my creative soul!

Last week, my Artist’s Date was a quiet morning spent in a wonderful, independent bookstore, Prairie Path Books. I could instantly feel that I was among friendly, interesting, kindred spirits there! They were curious to hear about my journey through The Artist’s Way program. In fact, they have even hosted Artist’s Way gatherings there in the past. So, they completely understood that I wasn’t shopping, but there to learn and discover instead. I spent time reading the opening passages of several beautiful memoirs. The words of each author filled my heart with new inspiration.

rumiquote

Matters of the heart…   I have given so much thought to each exciting ‘tool’ in It’s Never to Late to Begin Again over the past few weeks: Morning Pages, Artist’s Dates, Solo Walks, and Writing Memoir.  Each one is so valuable and each takes time. Since my goal this year is to nourish my creative heart with creative time in my little studio,  I will be tweaking The Artist’s Way plan going forward. There must also be family time, time for workouts, time for home and garden projects, tea with friends, reading, scrapbooking, blogging, and travels.

So, I have decided to s-t-r-e-t-c-h this 12-week journey of discovery into a 12-month journey.  Ahhhhhh!  I’m really looking forward to working at a much slower place, and having more time to write memoir. It’s something that I have long wanted to begin. Telling our stories and documenting our lives in different ways is yet another ‘ribbon’ that curls throughout my life.

Matters of the heart…

and when my heart speaks, I always listen!

♥♥♥

Be sure to let me know if you are interested in reading more about

this journey of discovery or possibly joining in!

You can leave your thoughts below,

or contact me quietly through ‘Say Hello’ on the blog.

♥♥♥

Thank you all so much for taking time

to read Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes.

The kindness, encouraging words, and creativity

of the friends who gather here always inspire me.

valentine2017

Supplies: Papertrey Ink stamps, Papertrey Ink tag die, Simon Says Stamp ‘friends’ die, acetate for ink smooshing technique, water mister, paintbrush, Distress inks, Versafine Onyx Black ink, Canson watercolor paper,… and lots of love!

Heartfelt thanks for being a part of my life…

and for allowing me to be a part of yours!

Happy Day!

Warm hugs,

♡ Dawn

Save

Save

Save

For the Love of a Letter…

Letters are like visits… when friends are apart!           {via Tumblr}

Hi Friends!

I’ve been thinking about one of my very favorite pastimes today!  As far back as I can remember {and that’s a long time}, I have always loved writing letters. It just fills my heart with happiness to pick out pretty stationery, find a lovely postage stamp, a nice pen, and let the words just flow… straight from my heart! Often I will tuck in a photo or two that hold special memories. Letter writing is one of the joys that has made such a difference in my life!

It has always been my style…

On our family vacations throughout my childhood, I would bravely strike up a conversation with someone my age at the campground or by the swimming pool. Before parting ways, I would often ask them to be pen pals so that we could continue our friendship all summer long. Throughout grade school and high school, I loved writing letters to my French pen pal. Oh, the excitement to find her letters in our mailbox!

It has expanded my world in wonderful ways…

Some of the friendships that I treasure most in life began by writing letters. After a brief meeting in person, my German friends and I watched our friendship blossom through letter writing. We learned patience, as we waited weeks for our letters to cross the ocean and back, with a long-awaited reply.  The anticipation made it ever so exciting!

It keeps hearts close across the miles…

Writing to friends and family in other states always makes the distance between us seem shorter. It is always so heartwarming to discover a Kindred Spirit who also loves to write letters! Oftentimes, our friendships have grown even deeper, through letter writing, after a friend has moved away, Sharing our hearts in handwritten letters, even when friends live nearby, has helped our friendships grow in the most wonderful ways.  Making time to write a real letter, in this age of electronic communication, is a true expression of affection, friendship, and love! The gift of rereading a letter several times multiplies the joy of receiving it.

It is filled with sentimental creativity…

Pretty paper always makes my heart soar! Just choosing the perfect piece of  stationery is part of the charm of the handwritten letter. Once the paper is filled with carefully worded thoughts, it becomes a heartwarming, little gift for a special someone. I also adore sending notes in handmade cards.  Spending time thinking about the recipient while I create their card always feels like a little visit. Letters are like visits… when friends are apart!

There is love in the tiniest details…

At the post office, I always ask to see all of the stamps, just to find the perfect one for the recipient… one they might enjoy. In my Calligraphy days, I would dip my nib into handmade ink colors as I addressed each envelope, to complement the postage stamps. It’s the little things that make my heart happy!

Writing a letter feels so good…

There is even a scientific reason why making time to write a letter or note, even on the busiest of days, makes me feel so happy. This simple act of connecting and bonding with a friend, without any expectation in return, stimulates Oxytocin (the ‘feel good’ hormone) levels in the bloodstream. When our Oxytocin levels rise, it becomes easier to deal with stress. Writing letters is such a healthy, happy pastime!

Letters become real treasures…

Letters document the small moments of our everyday lives in a real, lasting way.  My mom still treasures the weekly letters that my dad sent her while serving in Korea. They are tied with a ribbon, joining two young hearts so long ago. The stories these letters hold are so important to our family. They are a cherished part of our history.

Letter Writing journals held the daily letters that my young students and I exchanged long ago. They each enjoyed writing me a letter in class, while I enjoyed answering their letters at home, while sitting on the porch swing. They shared the important things ~ their families, their pets, their dreams, and their questions. We grew so close, through our daily letters. Over the years, so many students have let me know that they saved their teddy bear Letter Writing journals because they hold the stories of an entire year of their lives! Their letters document an important part of their childhood.

During a recent summer, a young neighbor and I also shared a Letter Writing journal. I would deliver my letter to his mailbox early each morning and he would carefully tuck the journal holding his reply behind the checkerboard on our front porch. (He wasn’t quite tall enough to reach our mailbox!) We both looked forward to our daily letters! Over the summer, this struggling writer discovered that writing is communicating and can be really exciting! We will always be important friends because of the letters we wrote that summer.

Over the years, as my young students have grown up, many still keep in touch. I will always cherish their letters, filled with their everyday stories, important questions, hopes, and dreams. They often write from college, sharing their lives as they grow up. Oh, how these letters touch my heart!

It’s so nice to brighten someone’s day…

During these uncertain times, it is so lovely to send words that someone special can hold onto for years to come. Although weeks or months (or even years) have passed, perhaps there is someone special who would love hearing from you! When they find your letter in the mail, everything just picks up right where you left off. You could write a long, newsy letter to catch up on one another’s lives, send a handmade card with a little note, or write a special thank you letter for a kindness. It’s never too late. Whenever one person writes a letter ~ it makes two hearts happy!

It’s easy to spread sunshine to friends you’ve never met…

"Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."  ~ Winnie the Pooh

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
~ Winnie the Pooh

There are many wonderful organizations who welcome your handwritten notes. It’s such a small act of kindness that makes a big difference in the world. Postcrossing is a fascinating way to connect with people from all parts of the world by sending postcards. Writing ‘Any Hero’ letters is an important part of the amazing organization, Operation Write Home.  Letters from American citizens are delivered to American military personnel deployed across the globe. It’s our opportunity to thank them for their service and sacrifice. What a small act of kindness for those who give so much for all of us! Just writing letters, notes, or postcards can make a real difference in the life of someone you might never meet!

It’s the perfect time to write…

‘National Send a Handwritten Letter Day’ will be celebrated on the 17th day of every month in 2015. If everyone writes just one letter, it will support the goals of preserving and honoring the art of the handwritten letter, pumping millions of letters into our struggling postal system, and bringing millions of smiles into the hearts of people from coast-to-coast.

The ‘Happy Mail’ movement encourages everyone to send a card, note, or letter, too. Their goals are to make someone’s day, connect people (and hearts) together, and to save a mail carrier’s job! Just the simple act of writing a letter makes a big difference to everyone who touches the letter ~ you, the person sorting the mail, the person delivering the mail, and the recipient. So much happiness flows from one little letter!

It has been such fun to write Valentine notes and letters this week. ♡

It has been such fun to write Valentine notes and letters this week. ♡

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, once said “Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.” Handwritten letters hold our stories and document our lives in the loveliest of ways. They are best savored with a cup of tea!

“Or don’t you like to write letters?  I do because it’s such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you’ve done something,” wrote Ernest Hemingway.  That’s so true for me! Writing a letter always feels like playing, rather than working!

Just LOVE to write letters! I'm off to brew a cup of tea...

I will always be a letter writer at heart!

I’m looking forward to writing a long letter to a faraway friend this weekend. Emails are great… but a letter to hold, reread, and save is an extra-special gift of love and friendship! Writing letters is just what I do, and have always done. Sometimes the good, old-fashioned traditions are the best ways!

Hope you will make someone’s mailbox happy… and put a smile in their heart today! ♡

Happy writing!

♡Dawn

P.S.  Are you a letter writer?  Please share your stories, too!  Who would just LOVE to receive a letter from you this week?

{All stamp images ~ USPS}

Christmas in Bloom

 

 

'

Just stepping into the Conservatory on a cold December day warms my heart!

Hi Friends!

Just last week, I visited the Conservatory in a nearby park to enjoy the colorful Christmas blossoms. Ever since that sunny visit, I have been thinking about my favorite holiday flowers…

Poinsettias have always been a part of our family Christmas celebrations. I have sweet childhood memories of guests bringing my mom a beautiful Poinsettia at Christmastime. I often wondered what made this flower so special? When I began decorating a home of my own, my mom, aunt, friends, or neighbors would surprise me with a beautiful Poinsettia plant for my December birthday. Often there were many colorful Poinsettias here!

Now I realize why these flowers are so cherished…

Can you guess why these beautiful blooms are such a heartwarming part of my Christmas?

.

Poinsettias come in so many different colors…

 

 

Another Christmas flower that warms my heart is Cyclamen. Its unique heart-shaped leaves show off delicate flowers that dance upon long, graceful stems. Many years ago, I ‘discovered’ Cyclamen while visiting Germany at Christmastime. During that wunderbar Christmas visit, I was enchanted by the Cyclamen plants blooming on my friends’ windowsills.

couldn’t wait to bring that Christmas tradition to my home!

.

Cyclamen

Now each year on my birthday, my husband surprises me with pretty Cyclamen plants for our sunny dining room. This Christmas, they are gracing an antique wooden box on our dining room table. Every time I gaze at their blossoms, I remember my faraway friends and my unforgettable Christmas in Germany!

Cyclamen and Poinsettias

have become such an important part

of our Christmas celebrations here at home.

Beyond their beautiful blossoms, they hold precious memories.

 They are a special part of our family stories now,

celebrating so many precious people

who will always be part of our lives.

 

⚛⚛⚛⚛⚛

 

The Conservatory has a wonderful kaleidoscope that allows visitors to focus on different flowers. It is amazing to study Poinsettias and Cyclamen through the lens of the kaleidoscope. What intricate designs it creates! Take a peek…

DSCN4048

DSCN4049

 

⚛⚛⚛⚛⚛

Amarillys, Paperwhites, Christmas Cactus, Star of Bethlehem…

In Christmases past, I have grown and enjoyed them all.

Each blossom brings so much beauty on the coldest of winter days.

Amaryllis {Photo Credit}

 

Paperwhites     {Photo Credit}

 

Christmas Cactus {Photo Credit}

 

Star of Bethlehem {Photo Credit}

 

Yet for me,

the most heartwarming Christmas flowers

will forever be

Cyclamen and Poinsettias,

for they have stories to tell that make my heart sing…

and stories truly do matter!

.

Pale pink Cyclamen and bright pink Kalanchoe

Yes, flowers are always a special part of Christmas at our house.

But I hope you’ll come visit again soon,

for the most special stories

are waiting to be shared.

 Next time…

May your Christmas bloom with happiness!

♡Dawn

P.S.  What is your favorite Christmas flower? Hope you’ll share your stories!