Gathering…

Hi Friends!

April showers have continued to drench the Midwest throughout May this year. We have already endured seventeen days of rain this month. Our rainiest May in 149 years has kept most gardeners indoors, as we study the weather forecast daily hoping for sunshine and warmer temperatures. Each day, our hearts have been heavy for those who are truly suffering in the aftermath of severe flooding and destructive tornadoes across our country.

May is always my very favorite month in the garden. Alas, this year’s Garden Journal holds only sparse notes of an hour here or there: tidying up the Herb & Tea garden, emptying the rain gauge, sweeping the Elm and Maple seeds from the front porch, and cutting bouquets of Lilacs and Lily-of-the-Valley. Mowing the lawn between rainstorms has taken a bit of strategic planning!

However, with our abundance of Spring rain,

 all of the blooming trees are just glorious!

While dreaming of sunshine,

I have been gathering inspiration on impromptu Artist Dates. 🙂

I took an early morning walk through a favorite park during Lilac Time.

Although I went to enjoy the beautiful Lilacs…

it was the magnificent Tulips that captured my fancy.

As I wandered through the park,

I gathered new inspiration for watercolors and ink combinations.

The designer who planned these sweeping beds

last Fall truly had an artistic vision!

As I paused to soak in all of Nature’s beauty…

I was inspired to make notes about ink colors.

Very soon, my little Paper Garden studio downstairs

will be blooming

with stamped, layered flowers for handmade cards.

Rainy days seem to call for a cup of tea, a cozy afghan, and a good book. I just finished reading The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker. The author brings a fascinating background and her expertise in conflict resolution to this engaging book on creating transformative gatherings of many kinds. Priya Parker dives deep into many different types of gatherings throughout the world designed to intentionally bring people closer. Whether we gather for business meetings, family reunions, weddings, birthday celebrations, to mourn, or to experience something new, the author takes us step-by-step through the art and science of planning truly memorable gatherings.

As I read, I reflected on so many different types of wonderful gatherings over the years ~ those powerful moments in my primary classroom, inspiring workshops, unique gatherings of friends, and our most heartwarming family gatherings. We can all remember those very special, often unexpected gatherings that impacted us in powerful ways and created lasting memories.

Priya Parker teaches us that these transformative gatherings begin with an interesting purpose that matches a true need in our life. She shares ideas that help us understand who to include and who to temporarily exclude when planning purposeful, powerful gatherings that bring people closer together and inspire us to take action.

Oh, my goodness, I made notes as I read. I have always dreamed of bringing together the special people in my life who have never met one another in purposeful, small groups. 🙂 With thoughtful planning, just imagine the conversations and inspiration that would happen at such gatherings!

(Watch Priya Parker’s recent TED Talk here. It’s wonderful!)

Although I read The Art of Gathering on my own, I think it would make a very interesting Book Club selection. Readers would be able to share past gatherings and what made them so memorable. Creating events that bring people together with a unique purpose can have lasting power!

As I read The Art of Gathering, my thoughts also turned to our little gathering place for kindred spirits here at Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes. Our quiet, little blog is five years old now! 🙂  (You might enjoy reading about how our blog began in this post.)  I’m so very grateful for the old friends who have been visiting from the very beginning and the new friends who discover us and and join in the fun. I love to learn from you and am inspired by all that you share in your thoughtful comments. I truly appreciate you spending a bit of your precious time gathering here with us. YOU are often mentioned on the Gratitude page in my journal. Heartfelt thanks for always being here!

In anticipation of our 5th Anniversary, I have been making some changes behind the scenes here. There is a brand new About page. I have updated the Inspiration page and have included a few Podcasts that I’ve been enjoying lately. The Favorites page contains two fabulous, new stamp companies that have won my heart with their unique designs and truly wonderful customer service. The Say Hello page is an easy way to reach me anytime via email.

I also added a new Category, making it easy to search for blog posts that interest you most. In addition to Petals (gardening posts), Paper (cardmaking, bullet journaling, watercoloring posts,…), and Simple Thymes (life’s simple pleasures, family stories, antiquing, nature walks, travels,…), we now have an Inspiring Books category. Searching Inspiring Books will pull up all of the posts about books that have moved me to take action. These books taught me wonderful lessons and prompted me to make real changes! I hope that you will find them valuable, too.

It is our gatherings and connections that make life extra-sweet. Although I love the creative process of making cards, my very favorite part is sending my cards off in the mail to touch hearts. Although I am energized by the creative process of writing and shooting photos for each blog post, I find true JOY in our connection in the comments that you leave here. I love taking the time to read and answer each comment. I hope you feel comfortable chatting with one another here, too! Kindred spirits always gather here… and that’s something truly wonderful to celebrate!

Just wondering

  What gathering has made an unexpected, powerful impact on you? What made this gathering different from all of the others?

  Do you prefer gathering with people who are much like you or do you enjoy meeting people who are different, yet open to a shared experience?

  Do you find large gatherings or small gatherings more enjoyable?

  Is there a special gathering that you would love to plan some day?

Hope you will share your thoughts with all of us…

 

Please stay safe throughout this long, holiday weekend,

especially if dangerous weather threatens.

Let’s take a moment on Memorial Day to honor all those

who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy every day.

 

With love and gratitude,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

 

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Cultivating Patience…

Hi Friends!

The garden always teaches me important life lessons…

and this Spring it has cultivated

a valuable

mindfulness practice,

with help from Mother Nature.

Ever-so-slowly…

Springtime, in the Midwest, seemed to

tiptoe

into my garden

this year

with its usual early bloomers.

The dwarf Irises started the garden party,

followed by Crocuses days later.

The first blossoms always take my breath away!

They were the perfect reminders to look for

tiny blessings

tucked into the corners of each day.

Ever-so-slowly…

The petite Siberian Squill

flourished in spite of

our wild, weather roller coaster ride!

They taught me to stay

strong

during the challenging times.

Ever-so-slowly…

The sunny, yellow Daffodils bounced back

after being flattened by two

wet, heavy snowfalls

in April.

Their strength is

an important reminder

to us all.

We can bounce back after multiple setbacks.

Ever-so-slowly…

The Irises, Bleeding Hearts,

Tulips, and Hostas

endured

the heavy, icy snowfall.

They remind us to look toward

the sunshine

when we need it most!

Our Winter weather began with an extremely challenging

blizzard in November and surprised us

twice with snowstorms in April.

I can’t remember ever watching my garden

bloom in the snow

until last weekend!

This snowstorm

brought our snowfall total to

49.5 inches (126 cm).

Our average Winter snowfall is

36 inches (91cm).

Magnolia petals were tossed about

like confetti

during the latest Spring snowstorm.

Most of the petals held fast to the branches,

reminding us to ‘hold tight’

and weather the storms

together!

Ever-so-slowly…

The trees and perennials soaked up

an abundance of precipitation

for this year’s growing season.

Ever-so-slowly…

The Spring snow melted.

Finally, heavy rains

brought the month of April

 to a very soggy end.

Ever-so-slowly…

I began to document

Spring 2019

in my Garden Journal.

Alas, there were only a few hours

of raking and gardenkeeping

during April.

My busiest day in the garden

so far this year

was April 23rd:

♥ mowed the lawn for the first time this year

♥ hung birdhouse in the Magnolia (in full bloom!)

♥ placed a pair of colorful Wellies and

a vintage watering can filled with Forsythia cuttings

beside the front door

♥ planted a large grapevine basket

with colorful Muscari and Daffodils

for the front porch

(and added a tiny bird’s nest

found in the garden last Autumn)

♥ planted Violas in a pretty, sage-colored pot

to bring a bit of Springtime to the

front porch

 

Ever-so-slowly…

I’m learning the importance of being more flexible…

and just taking things moment-by-moment.

Nature can’t be rushed.

My garden is cultivating a

deep sense of

patience

in my soul.

♥♥♥

I’m so very grateful

for all of the life lessons

my garden

teaches me each and every year .

Springtime anticipation

feels extra-sweet

this year!

♥♥♥

It’s marvelous, magical May!

Take time to enjoy the blossoms each day!

 

Sending sunshine!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Have you been busy in your garden?

What’s blooming in your neighborhood?

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Quiet…

Hi Friends!

Our native plants are in full bloom here in the Prairie State. We are very fortunate to have several prairie areas nearby, just perfect for a walking meditation on a recent Summer morning.

The gentle, winding path took me past a quiet marsh area. Peaceful lilypads, slender grasses, sunny coneflowers, and delicate Queen Anne’s Lace inspired me to pause and reflect…

Native wildflowers have long roots that run so deep,

much like our family roots.

The Native plants support one another.

Growing together in the prairie ecosystem

allows the wildflowers to survive the difficult times and thrive.

As I walked, the silence was only broken

by the song of red wing blackbirds and crickets.

Then the stillness and quiet returned.

I wanted to let everyone know that, much like the quiet of the prairie, our blog will be quiet for a little while. I will be dedicating my time to helping my family and there just won’t be time to write and edit posts for a while. As soon as possible, I look forward to writing again. There is so much to share!

In the meantime, I hope you will peek into the blog archives to enjoy stories you may have missed during your busy times. Be sure to read through the comments, for these little conversations are always the highlights of every blog post here!

I will pop in to check our blog each day, so please do continue to leave your lovely comments on any post. Replying to your comments brings me such joy! You can always reach me, by email, through the ‘Say Hello’ page. I very much look forward to hearing from you!

Heartfelt thanks for always being here!

With love,

♡ Dawn

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Summer Songs

Hi Friends!

Ahhhh, the lovely soundtracks of Summer days…

Summer songs are all around us.

Can you hear them, too?

Each morning, as I step outside and stroll through the arbor into the backyard, I feel so grateful for all of the rainy days we have had this summer. The pitter patter of raindrops has been one of our most popular Summer songs! Over the past few weeks, we have had another 7 inches (17 cm) of rain.

In fact, our garden hose is still tucked away in the garage. Mother Nature has been watering for me all Summer long! 🙂 She even refills our bee baths and birdbath. I’ve been helping a tiny bit, using a vintage watering can to water the containers on the front porch.

Our perennial, cottage garden is quite lush and the weeds are most definitely thriving, too! The clematis blossoms that adorned the top of the arbor have been artfully rearranged by a frisky squirrel. I’ve been watching him climb up and down the arbor as if he were climbing a ladder. Although concerned at first, now I’m just tickled by the way the squirrel has arranged the pale purple clematis vines!

The garden has also been filled with a symphony of delightful birdsong this Summer!  Our feathered friends made themselves right ‘at home’ in the birdhouses throughout the garden and built a nest under the eaves. Their sweet songs always entertain me while I am busy gardenkeeping. My favorite garden task this month has been cutting bouquets of blossoms to fill stoneware crocks and Mason jars on the front porch. 🙂 What a peaceful way to begin each day!

Pops of color from the Asiatic lilies and wide drifts of orange and yellow daylilies in full bloom have been just lovely. This week, as I cut down millions hundreds of spent daylily stems, my heart smiled with gratitude for their glorious show during the past few weeks! An abundance of Annabelle hydrangeas allows me to cut armfuls of the huge, white blossoms to add cozy, old-fashioned charm to our front porch and dining room. It’s fun to send visitors home with a bouquet, too!

Now in the mid-afternoon, we can hear the cicadas tuning up. Their loud, boisterous chorus continues until  evening, when the daylight fades and the fireflies entertain us while we relax on the front porch.

The buzzing of the bees as they work to pollinate the garden is one of my very favorite Summer songs. When the bees are happy, the gardener is happy!

This month, the bees are also creating quite a buzz in my Self-Care bullet journal…

I played with a hexagon stencil and Distress Ink as I set up my July pages.

Each morning, I graph the number of hours I slept.

Every evening, I jot down things that I was grateful for that day.

My Gratitude page fills up very quickly each month.

It is always the most important page in my Self-Care journal.

Each day, I track my workouts,

the glasses of water I drink,

and my number of steps.

 

There is no mention of food

in my Self-Care journal.

(It’s so easy to track my healthy meals each day in the Weight Watchers app.)  🙂

This special journal highlights all of the other things

that make my life a healthy, happy one!

 

My sweet husband and I each wrote

‘Six-Word Love Stories’ about our marriage

and I added those heartfelt words recently.

The final July page in my journal holds a few heartwarming quotations.

Although it takes many hours to create my journal pages,

it only takes 10 minutes each evening to fill them in.

This reflective time always feels like

a special, little gift to me!

 I’m already thinking about an August theme

for my bullet journal.

Hmmm, perhaps… sunflowers!

 

There is still one more favorite Summer song…

Every year, one song becomes a celebration of my Summer days.

It’s been that way ever since my high school days. 🙂

My ‘Summer song’ seems to choose me,

very much like my ‘word’ for the year does.

This song has been following me

everywhere I go ~

whether I’m driving

or creating in my little

Paper Garden studio downstairs.

I’m always singing along!

♥ ♥ ♥

♫ ♬ This is my wish for all of you!

(With huge thanks to Jason Mraz for his wonderful lyrics!) 🙂

I’m so grateful that you stopped to visit today!

What kinds of Summer songs are making you smile this year?

Hope you’ll share with all of us…

 

Just keep singing!

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

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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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May Blossoms

 

Hi Friends!

Such incredible Springtime extremes! Very likely, you might also be noticing extreme weather events in your little corner of the world, as coverage of terrible flooding, violent storms, devastating wildfires, and dangerous volcanic eruptions fill our news reports on a daily basis. I just returned home to the Midwest after spending several weeks visiting the Sonoran desert of Arizona. Throughout this month, my thoughts often turned to extreme weather contrasts offering just a tiny glimpse into the month of May on our fragile planet.

I boarded my flight in late April on a frosty 31 degree morning and landed a few hours later in the warm sunshine. It was such a blessing to spend a few weeks making precious memories with my parents in their lovely Southwest home. ♥♥

I enjoyed many peaceful mornings in my parents’ desert garden. Unfamiliar birdsong, gentle breezes, and mountain views nourished my soul as I worked outside very early to avoid the afternoon temperatures of 111, 108, and 106 degree days. We were experiencing typical July temperatures in May.

Pulling weeds ‘desert-style’ requires a large brimmed hat, thick gloves, and long-nosed pliers. Although I didn’t know the names of any of the weeds, it was easy to identify intruders that didn’t belong in the their tidy yard covered with tiny pebbles, smooth river rocks, and beautiful granite from the foothills of Red Mountain. The red, parched earth in their yard anchors the deep roots firmly as they reach for water.

Less than one inch of rainfall in 2018 has caused extreme drought conditions in their area. The last measurable rainfall was in January. However, my parents’ desert neighborhood is in full bloom this month. The stunning colors, against the bright blue skies, were a remarkable treat to behold!

Palo Verde tree in full bloom

 

Jacaranda tree filled with blossoms

 

Pink blossoms of the Ironwood tree

 

Blossom-filled stalks of the Joshua Tree

Whenever my mom and I took early morning walks, she shared fascinating facts about the desert plants. We both love the majestic Saguaro cacti. This month my mom has noticed more Saguaro blooms than she has ever seen in her 23 years in the desert.

The white blossoms not only crowned the tops and arms of the Saguaros. The blossoms lined the prickly sides of the Saguaros, too. We were in awe of these plentiful blossoms everywhere we walked. The pollinators were quite thrilled with this spectacular blossom display, as well!

Some of my solo walks became ‘Artist Dates’ as I observed…

the beautiful shadows created by the Red Yucca blossoms…

the brilliant, ombre color palette of the Mexican Bird of Paradise blossoms,

the pale, pink Prickly Pear buds that opened into sunny, yellow flowers,

and the hummingbirds sipping nectar from the blossoms of the Ocotillo cactus. I’m quite certain that some of these desert wonders will inspire watercolors in the weeks to come!

♥♥♥

While I was away, I was so grateful that my sweet husband was keeping watch over our Midwest garden. He told me of hot weather, cold weather, huge rainstorms, and a microburst causing a tree to fall onto a home just three doors down from us. Each evening after work, he checked on the garden, sent frequent photos of our Magnolia in bloom,

and updated me on the activities of a very hungry groundhog.

(Last week, it devoured all of the buds on our Columbine plants. 😦 )

May has always been my very favorite month in the garden. I wondered if I might miss seeing my perennials in bloom with our unpredictable Spring weather. We had almost five inches of rain during my absence and I was so curious to see all of the changes!

My return flight landed late at night.

I was so excited for the dawn’s early light…

and my first peek

at my Friendship Garden!

Everything has changed so much!

I’m absolutely thrilled that the May blossoms waited for me!

Can’t wait to play in the garden!

Spring blessings!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  How is the weather in your little corner of the world?

 

 

 

 

 

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Cold Hands, Warm Hearts!

Hi Friends!

“Snow makes whiteness where it falls,

The bushes look like popcorn balls.

Snow-covered evergreens

The places where I always play,

Snowy scallops on the white picket fence

Look like somewhere else today!”

(Credit:”First Snow” by Mary Louise Allen)

My ‘History Garden’ casts shadows in winter.

We woke up on Monday to blue skies and sunshine… finally! Early in the morning, I bundled up and went for a long-awaited walk through my Winter garden. Very slowly, I trudged through the deep, glittery snow, several inches higher than my warm boots.

We had measurable snowfall every day for nine consecutive days, from February 3rd through the 11th. It truly looked like we were living in a snow globe! 🙂  Each day as I peeked through our lace curtains, while sipping tea from a favorite antique teacup, the snowflakes danced over my garden like Winter’s butterflies. Many times, I reached into my special ‘Basket of Sunshine’ for an extra dose of coziness during our long stretch of snowy days.

Glittery snowflakes falling in a shaker card

Shoveling snow became my daily ‘workouts,’ often shoveling two or three times a day. Traditionally, my husband prefers the ease of a snowblower, while I prefer the peaceful sounds of a shoveling meditation. As I slowly scoop the snow from the sidewalks, I always take time to quietly enjoy our Wintertime shadow garden. Every year, I intentionally leave the tall stems and dried flower heads of my perennials standing, providing seeds and nesting materials for our feathered friends throughout the Winter months. Seeing these dried souvenirs in my flower beds always fills my heart with warm, sunny memories of happy days in the garden last Summer.

Winter snowfalls also provide nice visits with our neighbors, a quick wave or a brief chat, as we shiver together. Neighbors helping neighbors has always been an important part of the quiet street where we live. As a young homeowner when I moved here thirty-one years ago, I loved being the secret “snow angel” often helping my older neighbors. Years passed, and now we have become the grateful recipients of help with our snow.  We are so thankful for our neighbor, Ralf, who loves to help out with his enormous snowblower! Ours is tiny by comparison. During this snowy stretch, we also had a “secret snowman” who cleared our sidewalks and long driveway on two different days to surprise us! Such kindness is truly heartwarming and always so appreciated! 🙂

While the snowflakes tumbled down outside, it was the perfect time for some creative hours inside. I enjoyed playing with tiny Art Impressions Watercolor stamps and watercolor markers to practice some watercolor vignettes. At first, it was fun to create snowy scenes. However, as the snowflakes fell outside day after day, my my heart yearned to create tiny, sunny gardens.

Although it is very chilly in my little Paper Garden studio during the Winter months, I still bundle up and carry hot tea downstairs to make one or two cards at a time. This week, I have been creating floral cards to warm hearts of family and friends. Doing a bit of ‘gardening’ with paper and ink definitely warms my heart, too!

A lifelong letter writer, I have also been warming my heart by putting pen to paper. In quiet celebration of International Correspondence Writing Month (#InCoWriMo2018), I am enjoying writing long letters to dear friends. What a pleasure to decide who to write to, choose some pretty stationery from my desk drawer, and to fill a page or two with the breathings of my heart! I have also chosen a few names and addresses from the long list of international letter writers on the InCoWriMo 2018 website. I’m planning to write a few surprise letters! I chose someone who lives in my favorite little town in Wisconsin, someone in Ireland (a place I dream of visiting), someone in Paris (J’adore Paris!), and someone who has been such an inspiration for my journal writing.

All of my letters sent within the United States will carry a very special postage stamp. The Alzheimer’s semipostal stamp helps to raise awareness of this heartbreaking disease. Each Alzheimer’s stamp costs 65 cents and will help raise funds for the work that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is doing to help those suffering with this disease. This cause is very near and dear to my heart and it would mean so much to me if the friends of our blog would purchase the Alzheimer’s stamps at their local post offices. This new semipostal stamp will be available for two years. All of those small donations will make a difference in so many lives!

All of the special people who gather here

to read each post

and share their thoughts

definitely warm my heart!

This little Valentine

is especially for you!

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

Warmest hugs,

♡ Dawn

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Chatting By the Garden Gate ~ July

Hi Friends!

The birds are singing sweetly, the cicadas are even louder,

the mosquitoes are biting,

and late afternoon rainstorms have been blowing across the plains.

It’s July in the Midwest… 

and I’ve been spending lots of time in the garden!

♥♥♥

Most days, this little sign on our front porch lets visitors know where to find me.  🙂

There have been more big changes,

as I work hard toward my goal to ‘right-size’ my cottage perennial gardens,

inspired by this wonderful book by Kerry Ann Mendez.

Throughout this busy month, I’ve also been doing a bit of garden memory-keeping,

bullet-style, in my Garden Journal.

In our area, we have had over seven inches (18 cm.) of rain so far this month.

Northern Illinois has had twice as much rainfall and rivers there are overflowing their banks.

Our thoughts are with everyone experiencing the terrible, widespread flooding.

Unfortunately, heavy thunderstorms are expected again tonight.

 

Fortunately, we have had plenty of dry, sunny days, too…

Last year, I dug out a huge bed of Daylilies to create a special History Garden

along the length of our garage.

It is filled with favorite perennials that were growing in this garden 30 years ago,

when I moved here and learned to garden.

This month, I dug again for several days

to remove another large patch of orange Daylilies. 

Of course, I waited until they were finished blooming!  🙂

After removing and composting this patch of Daylilies,

now we can fully enjoy the blossoms in the History Garden!

I reused the antique bricks that I rescued

when we removed a stone planter in the front yard this spring.

It made sense to use the oldest bricks to create a simple garden path

past the oldest perennials in our garden!

As I pondered what to plant along the path (left side in photo),

it dawned on me that the same principles

that I use in my artwork would be perfect in the garden, too.

So, I transplanted Hostas and Artemisia to create a limited color palette

and pattern repetition from nearby garden beds.

Digging and moving perennials around in the garden feels very much like

‘watercoloring’ with real flowers!

                          Finally, I planted grass seed in the bare soil in the foreground.

Just this week, it felt so wonderful to complete another big gardening goal!

Now I can enjoy a full view of the History Garden

while I spend time in my Herb & Tea Garden,

the true ‘heart of my garden,’

surrounded by the white, picket fence.  🙂

Just wondering… 

What are your favorite and least favorite garden tasks?

My very favorite:

I just love deadheading the spent blossoms,

harvesting herbs, cutting bouquets of flowers,

and brewing a cup of homegrown herbal tea!

My least favorite:

I’m constantly battling with Creeping Charlie (ground ivy),

and Bishop’s Weed as they spread through my garden.

Digging up Daylilies is just exhausting. So glad that task is finished!

 

♥♥♥

Heartfelt thanks for chatting by the garden gate with us today.

Keep blooming and growing each day this summer!

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  We just returned from a wonderful, little adventure! ♥♥ Can’t wait to share it with you very soon!

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Inspiration… Everywhere!

Hi Friends!

Early Saturday morning we drove out into the countryside ~ passing lush, green fields, tidy, white farmhouses, and faded red barns. We were both looking forward to being outside in the morning sunshine and soaking up inspiration. As we pulled into the quiet, little town of Morris, our car knew the way to our usual out-of-the-way parking place. (The perfect spot just in case we wanted to carry some inspiration back to the car!)

It was 8 o’clock and Canalport Park was already filled with people. The friendliest people gather at the 3 French Hens French Country Market very early on the second Saturday of each month, from May through October. Everyone is seeking their favorite kind of inspiration!  Young and old, couples, singles, and families with pups on leashes wander through the park in search of antiques, upcycled art, handmade jewelry, artisan soaps, fresh-baked pies and breads, flowers of all kinds, and so much more.  Locally grown produce and a variety of tempting, hot foods and cold drinks often inspire a spur-of-the-moment picnic in the park, too.

As always, my husband and I started off together looking at the tables and displays filled with antiques. Before long, we each ventured off in search of our own favorite types of inspiration. I am drawn to antique furniture, vintage dishes, antique teacups, and interesting stoneware crocks, enamelware pitchers, and Mason jars to hold bouquets of garden flowers. He is drawn to antique books, old tools, and historic memorabilia.

Before long, he will walk across the wooden footbridge crossing the historic I & M Canal ~

to find inspiration

in a quiet walk in nature.

 

He enjoys hiking the wooded path to the Illinois River

to observe the local fauna and watch all kinds of boats on the river.

This was my Saturday morning ‘Artist’s Date’ seeking inspiration for our home and garden, as I nourished my creative heart and soul.  I have been truly smitten with Farmhouse Style decorating lately. Fresh, white beadboard, walls covered with wood slats, natural wood finishes, and pops of color and natural textures have been calling my name. Old and rustic, yet simple and fresh! What better place to soak up that Farmhouse feeling than in a lovely park in the countryside! I have always been drawn to wooden signs ~ the words, the lettering styles, the rustic textures, and the soft colors. Walking through the 3 French Hens French Country Market felt like I was walking through my favorite Pinterest boards, with inspiration everywhere!

Come on along… so I can show you a few things that caught my eye on Saturday morning!

These muted colors and different textures made my heart sing!

Everything on this table could find a place in our little ‘nest.’

Bunting makes every day feel like a little celebration!

Hand lettered signs add just the right touch of warmth and coziness to any room.

I love the brush lettered style (especially bouncy brush lettering!).

I think I’m going to need some old, rustic barnwood! 🙂

This ‘Artist’s Date’

surrounded me with inspiration… everywhere I looked!

Lettering inspiration embellished

fluffy, white pillows,

embroidered, straw hats,

and more weathered barnwood!

As I walked along the edge of Canalport Park, I came upon something that stopped me in my tracks. Right before my eyes, a Tractor Parade turned slowly onto Illinois Street. Vintage farm tractors and modern tractors of every color and size passed by very slowly. Most of the tractors displayed American flags and many had shade umbrellas, too. A local artisan told me that farmers love to parade through small towns on Summer weekends in their beloved tractors, gathering for breakfast together in a small cafe. I just had to stop and watch…  🙂

This parade brought back such wonderful childhood memories of riding in antique car parades on Summer weekends. My dad drove our Model A Ford Coupe, that he had lovingly restored, blowing the ‘ooh-gah’ horn often. Dad and Mom rode inside the car, while my brothers and I waved to the parade watchers from the rumble seat! 🙂 

It’s such a wonderful thing when people discover their ‘tribe’ of kindred spirits ~

car people, tractor people, boat people, train people,

readers, gardeners, runners, cyclists, collectors, crafters,… ! 

Inspiration is everywhere, if we just take the time to look for it.

More lettering inspiration ~

on rusty metal and rustic paper!

 

These signs were lettered on upcycled kitchen cabinet doors. What a great idea!

One of them just had to come home to our cozy, little bungalow.

Can you guess which one?

It’s a good thing our perfect, out-of-the-way, parking spot was nearby!  🙂

After two inspiring hours, my husband came to find me in the park.

We had just enough time to look for inspiration in the nearby vintage shops ~

before driving one more hour through the peaceful countryside

to spend a lovely afternoon with our dear family.

♥♥♥

Thanks so much for visiting today!

Where do you find inspiration on a Summer weekend?

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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