‘Perennials’ in Bloom

Hi Friends!

The month of May has been a whirlwind of activity here, both in and out of the garden. All month long, however, a certain word has been on my mind. Each time I think of this word, it just lifts my spirits and makes me smile!

I first read this ‘new’ word, in a place where I always find wonderful inspiration ~ on Susan Branch’s blog! Take a peek at this interesting quote from Susan…

We are definitely Perennials!

Just saying the word makes me so happy!

The delicate blossoms of Cranesbill Geranium, Lilies of the Valley, Daisies, Allium, and Spirea add color to the garden in mid to late May.

We are each unique, but are kindred spirits in so many ways!

Bee on Cranesbill Geranium blossom

Perennial Cranesbill Geranium

Perennials are always as ‘busy as bees’ learning new things and sharing what we learn.

We are curious, peace loving, patriotic, and try to make a difference in our world.

Traveling, reading, finding mentors, and taking classes are just some of the ways we learn.

I love to walk through the garden each morning to fill a stoneware crock, pitcher, or Mason jar with a simple bouquet of Peonies for our front porch.

We try to add beauty to our world every day.

That’s just what Perennials do!

We pick a bouquet, write a letter, create art, bake cookies,

and share our gifts of handmade, homegrown kindness.

We seek out beauty wherever we roam ~ on every walk and down every garden path.

Floral wishes for a very special anniversary!  (All supplies by Papertrey Ink)

Perennials love to celebrate life’s special moments!

Today my parents are celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary! ♥♥ All month long, family and friends have joined together for a card monsoon. 🙂 We have been sending lots of special anniversary cards across the miles. Each day when my parents walked to their mailbox, they were surprised to discover more happy wishes! They have been bubbling over with joy throughout the month of May. Tonight they are celebrating with friends!  🙂

Clematis climbs high on our arbor

Perennials work hard toward our goals and reach new heights.

Since last September, I have been working very hard to reach

an important, personal goal.  I’m s-l-o-w-l-y getting closer to my goal!  🙂

Dandelion seed head

When life gives us ‘weeds,’

Perennials whisper, “Take it one day at a time.”

We unfurl our petals slowly… and one day, we are suddenly in full bloom!

This Columbine grew through a tiny crack in our driveway. I don’t have the heart to pull it out. What an inspiring reminder of the power of determination!

Perennials can often overcome challenges!

“We can do hard things!” was a daily reminder in our second grade classroom.

(Perennials can be any age at all!)  🙂

Susan Branch’s newest book is filled with her wonderful, hand lettered quotations and beautiful, watercolored illustrations.

Perennials are grateful for the small moments that make each day blossom!

On a recent morning, I picked a small bouquet of flowers,

brewed a pot of tea,

and read on the front porch, while listening to the birdsong in the garden.

My heart was filled with gratitude for these simple pleasures… and I smiled all day long!

♥♥♥

With heartfelt thanks to Susan Branch for helping me to discover that I am a Perennial.

(It’s so much sweeter than being a Baby Boomer!)  🙂

Perhaps you are a Perennial, too….

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  I wonder if I will ever grow into a Wildflower??  🙂

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

Sweet Memories

img_12742

Hi Friends!

It happens every year! After the magic of Christmas comes a quiet week… just right for reflecting. I cherish these peaceful moments as I make time to look back over the past 366 days. Just scrolling through my iPhoto library and Camera Roll takes me right back to those small moments and special times ~ a true celebration of 2016.

christmasmemories

During the last week of the year, I love to set aside many hours to document our family stories in our Christmas Memories keepsake book, by Susan Branch. Each book holds five years of family traditions ~ and we are nearing the end of our second volume. (I’m so grateful to have two new copies of Christmas Memories tucked safely away to hold ten more years of memories.)  A cup of tea, soft candlelight, and the sounds of Christmas music, help me to savor and preserve our stories.

blossom2016

It’s also the perfect time to reflect on the ‘One Little Word’ that has inspired me throughout the entire year.  I chose the word Blossom for 2016. (Truthfully, the word Blossom chose me!) It was my intention all year long to bravely share my handmade cards with others in the papercrafting community. There were some lovely ‘firsts’ this year… new ways to blossom!

handmadecards

The wonderfully supportive papercrafting community on Instagram welcomed me with encouraging words as I blossomed throughout the year. It’s always heartwarming when other card makers and the stamp designers comment on our handmade cards.

img_1029

Monthly paper crafting ‘Crops’ have been a very special part of my blossoming throughout the year. I always pack a basket of stamps, inks, watercolor paper, and markers with great anticipation. It’s just wonderful to gather with friends on a Saturday, as we each work on our own projects together. Creative hands and kind hearts make the hours fly by. Sharing, learning from one another, and laughing together is a delight. I feel so blessed to have found my crafty ‘tribe’ this year!

Starry Night collage

In July, I spent a creative day with papercrafters from around the globe, as we participated in the Papertrey Ink Stamp-a-Faire 2016. Inspired by the works of the The Masters throughout art history and the talented PTI Design Team, I stretched my skills immensely as I learned many new techniques. Although I worked alone in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs, it felt so great to be a part of something much bigger! Afterwards, I shared my creations as part of a Papertrey Ink Blog Hop. I cherish the sweet memories of that special day. It was a perfect way to blossom, blossom, blossom!

You can read all about it here.

img_1089

Creating cards to let loved ones know that I am thinking of them is a special passion. The time spent on each one-of-a-kind card always feels like a little visit with family and friends 🙂  Sharing handmade kindness is one small way of making a difference… and blossoming!

⚙⚙⚙

Of all the books I have enjoyed this year, there are two that have truly inspired my creative journey…

both touched my heart deeply and brought tears to my eyes.

IsleofDreams

Martha’s Vineyard ~ Isle of Dreams, the newest book in Susan Branch’s memoir trilogy, was published in Spring 2016. This handwritten, watercolored treasure takes us along as a young Susan flies away from California for a fresh start on Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts. I felt so many connections as she bought a little house of her own and turned it into ‘home sweet home.’ It was truly fascinating as Susan shared her determination, hard work, and the creative path she followed as she grew into an artist and author.

SusanBranch6

What a joy to read! So inspiring! During a tea party and book signing in May, I was so grateful for the opportunity to spend a bit of time with Susan again, and to tell her how much this book meant to me. Of all of the wonderful quotations in this book, I shared the one that inspired me the most… and Susan told me that it was her very favorite quotation, too. Kindred spirits!

HeavenWithin

Take a peek back at some of the sweetest memories of that very special day with Susan Branch here.

If you click on the Menu bar of our blog, the Tag Cloud will lead you to many of the ways

Susan has been an inspiration in my life!

bigmagic

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, spoke directly to my heart and inspired me to keep practicing even though creativity can feel so scary at times. I revisit so many quotations from this wonderful book often as I meander along this creative journey. 

strangejewels

Take a peek at the powerful connections I felt as I read Big Magic here.

Although I am always drawn to nonfiction, every so often my heart needs a little ‘escape’ from the news of the world. That’s when I reach for a bit of fiction. Earlier this month, I really enjoyed Debbie Macomber’s new Christmas novel, Twelve Days of Christmas. It’s a delightful holiday story, with a fun blogging twist! 🙂 It is just perfect for making sweet memories…

⚙⚙⚙

It’s been a very busy year of growing and blossoming!

I can’t wait to share my ‘One Little Word’ for 2017 next week.

I began listening for my new OLW in early November. Within just a few weeks, my new word found me.

If you would like to learn more about  ‘One Little Word’ and see how I have used each word, look here and here.

This will be my sixth year of setting my intentions for the New Year, using ‘One Little Word.’

⚙⚙⚙

May the New Year bring you an abundance of joy…

and a grateful heart!

That’s exactly how I feel each time I read your thoughtful comments.

Heartfelt thanks for taking the time to write and share your thoughts with all of us.

With gratitude,

♡ Dawn

                       P.S.  What were your favorite books this year? We’d love to hear about the books that you loved!

Save

Save

Save

Kindred Spirits…

AfternoonTea

Hi Friends!

So many treasured moments to hold in our hearts forever!

Last week, a lovely group of kindred spirits gathered from across the Midwest

to enjoy a long-awaited, experience of a lifetime ~ Afternoon Tea with Susan Branch.

♥♥♥

For the past thirty years, Susan Branch‘s handlettered books, filled with lovely, watercolored illustrations have been such an inspiration in my life.  Our home and garden, our family traditions, our holiday celebrations, and most recently, our little blog, have soaked up the flavors of Susan’s creativity. Susan generously shares her gifts, time, and kindness with adoring readers from across the globe. She always shows us how much she appreciates her fans.

This summer, Susan and Joe are celebrating the publication of Susan’s newest book, Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams, already a New York Times Best Seller, by driving across the country to meet Susan’s devoted fans. Special events are planned in 23 different cities, as Susan visits small, independent bookstores across America.

Here in the Midwest, our excitement grew quickly, as tickets sold out and the big day drew near! Susan would be the celebrated guest at an Afternoon Tea in her honor, where she would speak, answer questions, and sign books for her fans (lovingly known as her Girlfriends). This event was Susan’s second fundraiser for The Women’s Exchange of Winnetka, where women are empowered to follow their creative spirit.

Please join us for Afternoon Tea ~ with Susan Branch…

Westmoreland

{♥ Photo credit: Linda M.}

Driving through heavy Chicago area traffic in a terrible rainstorm couldn’t even dampen our spirits on May 10th. We were all just thrilled to spend an afternoon with Susan Branch… and we were bringing our own ‘sunshine’ to welcome her! The Springtime downpour ended just in time for our special gathering of Girlfriends, at the beautiful Westmoreland Country Club, in Wilmette, Illinois.

TeaFriends

{♥ Photo credit: Linda M.}

A friend (who I met at Susan’s last tea party) and I arrived early so that we could visit. We have kept in touch through cards, emails, and our blog for the past two years. We shared a book, handmade cards, and perennials from our gardens with one another. True gifts of the heart, from kindred spirits! Very soon more Girlfriends arrived and we quickly discovered that we were all kindred spirits. The Girlfriends at our table came from several towns in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois. We enjoyed getting to know one another, as we waited for Susan to arrive. {Huge, heartfelt thanks to Linda, Jo, and Karen, who graciously shared photos for today’s post!}

IsleofDreams

Susan’s newest book, Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams, is an inspiring, handlettered, watercolored memoir. It is the most wonderful book!! Based upon diaries that she has kept her entire life, Susan has written her memoir in three parts. She thinks of The Fairy Tale Girl as the appetizer, Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams as the main course, and A Fine Romance as the dessert. Susan’s devoted readers have hungrily awaited each new book in this delicious trilogy!

♥♥♥

WelcomeSusanBranch

As guests continued to arrive for the tea party, a hum of excitement began to build throughout the room. I stepped into the lobby, peeked out the window, and to my surprise… standing outside all alone (while Joe parked the van) was Susan Branch! Without even stopping to think, I went out on the porch to greet her. (It must be the teacher in me!) I welcomed Susan and there were several big hugs ~ just the two of us! We talked about all of the places they had visited so far on this trip, our parents, and Susan’s excitement to meet everyone. (Thankfully, I had my camera in hand to capture this unexpected moment, while we waited for Joe!)

WelcomeGirlfriends

It was time for Susan and Joe to be escorted inside by Deb, the event planner. There were 140 excited Girlfriends (and even some Guy friends) waiting inside! Still on cloud nine, I quietly ‘floated’ back to my table at the tea party. Then it dawned on me what had just happened… a treasured moment, totally unexpected, captured in my heart forever!

TimeforTea

The tea party was a feast for our eyes and taste buds. Fresh fruits, delectable tea sandwiches, scones, and desserts filled our plates, while stacks of our beloved Susan Branch books added a literary touch to our tables!

Dawn&SusanBranch

{♥ Photo credit: Jo R.}

Susan visited each table, warmly greeting all of the Girlfriends, while Joe took pictures and chatted with everyone. Susan and I enjoyed another quiet conversation, as I eagerly shared how closely I connected with her first home on Martha’s Vineyard. She bought her little home, Holly Oak, on her own, and with help was able to create the home and garden of her dreams. I knew just how she felt… and how this little home would forever be a part of her heart! Kindred spirits!

SoHappy

{♥ Photo Credit: Linda M.}

It was time for Susan’s talk. She positively glowed with excitement and charm. Can’t you just feel the excitement in the air? Susan shared several favorite stories from her memoirs, talked about the writing process, answered all of our questions, and even delighted us with a little song.  She brought along two very special books to share with us.

Wilmette2016

{♥ Photo Credit: Joe Hall}

Susan shared how important Girlfriends have been throughout her life. We felt the same emotions as we listened with rapt attention and so much admiration. Kindred spirits, one and all!

SusanBranch1

Susan shared stories of growing up, in California, as the oldest of eight children. She talked about the important lessons she learned from her parents. She shared the exciting news about selling the movie rights for her memoir. Together we suggested actresses that could portray Susan and the actor who could play the role of Joe, in a movie or tv series based upon her life.

SusanBranch2

Getting to know her readers and talking one-on-one with each of us might be Susan’s favorite part of her booksigning tours. We each wore nametags (designed by Susan), so she recognized each of us right from the start. Many of the Girlfriends already know Susan quite well from her engaging blog comments, Twitter feed, and popular Facebook page. What a treat it was to visit in person that afternoon! Kindred spirits!

SusanBranch6

The heartwarming stories that we shared, let Susan know just how much her books mean to all of the Girlfriends. Susan took the time to connect heart-to-heart with every one of us.

GirlfriendsSB

Out of the blue, Susan mentioned our little blog, letting me know that she has visited here quietly many times. I was so touched, that it was hard to even soak it all in! Susan’s kind, generous words will remain in my heart forever. Practically speechless, I do remember telling her that she was my inspiration for creating this happy gathering place for kindred spirits. ♡

♥♥♥

The lines at Susan’s book signing events  are always very long… and filled with joy! For it is in these lines, that new friends meet and old friends reunite. Just imagine spending time in line chatting with women who share all the same passions. In line, I met a new friend who just happens to live four blocks from me! We both love teaching, gardening, decorating, and travel. Kindred spirits! Over the years, whenever I passed by her house, I always admired the charming, white picket fence, grapevine wreath, and pretty shutters. It’s so lovely to know that we both find our inspiration from Susan’s books! We are already planning to visit one another’s gardens this summer.

♥♥♥

A friend from Wisconsin met another Girlfriend standing in line, who lives in the same town, very close to her! It’s just amazing to make such wonderful connections while waiting in a booksigning line. Yet we all understand how Susan brings kindred spirits together!

SusanBranch3

Of course, there were warm hugs! ♥ Lots of hugs!

Susan&Dawn

I feel so blessed to have met Susan at three different booksigning events over the years. As she signed each book, I told Susan about how that book connected with my life. I told her how the recipes in her books have become part of our family traditions. I shared my tradition of gifting her Love book to each of my friends as bridal shower gifts many years ago, but never bought a copy for myself, since I never planned to be married. At the tea party, a special friend gifted me with a copy of this out-of-print book, and Susan signed it for my husband and I that very day. It felt like a complete circle of love!

HeavenWithin

I told Susan how I used her ribbon bookmark to mark a passage that spoke to my heart in each book. Susan’s books are always filled with the most wonderful, handlettered quotations!  Imagine my surprise, when I shared how this page and quotation in Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams was so important to me… and Susan told me that it was also her most cherished quotation! ♥ Kindred spirits!

SusanDawnJoe

Joe joined us for a photo, too!

WonderfulDay

Old friends reunited… and new friends getting to know one another!

Kindred spirits, one and all!

DSCN7563

Heartfelt thanks for coming to visit us, dear Susan and Joe!

Safe travels as you spread happiness from coast to coast!

We are all still smiling and floating on cloud nine!

Kindred spirits are like that!

Hugs from the Heartland!

♡Dawn

P.S.  Do you have a favorite Susan Branch book? Let us know if you have met Susan at a booksigning event. If you write a blog post about it, be sure to share a link with us!

Nesting…

DSCN7035

Hi Friends!

I hope you are enjoying nice Springtime (or Autumn) days in your little corner of the world! Our weather has been so crazy in the Midwest for the past few weeks. It seems to change every few minutes ~ raindrops, snowflakes, a bit of sunshine, and high winds. Our bright, yellow daffodils and forsythia add a touch of sunshine to the garden, as their cheerful blossoms dance in the strong Springtime breezes. Near the front porch, our magnolia is already showing its bright fuchsia blossoms. Sweet, green leaves are so welcome as the trees and shrubs wake up.  We have squishy, wet lawns and lots of mud, too! Robins are everywhere. I’ve never seen so many! Yet, it’s still much too early to clean up our garden beds here in USDA Zone 5b. Our nighttime temperatures are still dropping into the 20s. Snowflakes are dancing down even as I write…

So, I have been very busy nesting… and resting, with anticipation!

DSCN7007

I’m enjoying spending creative hours downstairs, in my little ‘Paper Garden’ studio, where the sun always shines. (Thanks to daylight bulbs! 🙂 )  I’ve been busy playing with watercolors and stamping petite, garden scenes for my handmade cards. Sometimes we just have to make our own bits of Springtime!

DSCN6901

Since childhood, I have been passionate about writing old-fashioned letters to family and friends, near and far. So, I’m taking on the challenge of writing one letter or note every day this month. By spending less time online, I have found much more time for the joy of letter writing!

DSCN6900

I’ve gathered pretty stationery from my writing desk, a favorite pen, and lots of postage stamps. Letters carry handmade smiles, since they come right from the heart. Nothing makes me happier than mailing off a handmade card or letter to someone special! While writing or creating, I think about the recipient the entire time… so it feels almost like a little visit. Sharing handmade kindness has always been my cup of tea! (I think I’m going to need more postage stamps soon! 🙂 )

DSCN7008

My favorite project for the past few weeks has been a secret, surprise, family memory-keeping project. 🙂 I’m enjoying it immensely, and find myself smiling the whole time I am journaling! Can’t wait to deliver this heartfelt gift of family memories, in person, very soon! ♥♥

DSCN7037

Reading is always one of the best parts of nesting! Finding new inspiration for the garden, the front porch, and our home is just one of the delights of the changing seasons. I’m already dreaming of antiquing trips to the 3 French Hens French Country Market and have marked the 2016 dates on our calendar!

DSCN7033

The past week, I’ve been rereading The Fairy Tale Girl by Susan Branch. It has been so lovely to enjoy this volume of her beautifully illustrated, handwritten, watercolored memoir again. It’s filled with both smiles and heartbreak, as we learn more about Susan’s early years. Published last year, this volume of Susan’s memoir ended with a real ‘Cliff-hanger.’ So, I’ve been waiting… and waiting… and waiting enthusiastically for ~

DSCN7041

Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams, the second volume of Susan’s memoir.  Her excited fans were able to preorder this book last November, while Susan was still lovingly writing, illustrating, and watercoloring her story. It feels like I have been waiting for this book for thirty years… since Susan published her first Heart of the Home book. It arrived in our mailbox just yesterday!! 🙂

Oh my! I can’t tell you how much I adore (and connect to) Susan’s story of buying a little house of her own, transforming it into a cozy home, honoring the history of the previous homeowner, planting a garden, and creating a happy, little ‘nest’ to write and watercolor, in her own special, handmade way! I’m trying to read s-l-o-w-l-y…  to savor Susan’s wonderful story and artwork. Of course, I read into the wee hours of last night. (I just couldn’t stop!)

DSCN7050

Susan Branch’s long-awaited memoir is now complete!! She is celebrating this trilogy ~ with A Fine Romance (dessert, served first!), The Fairy Tale Girl (the appetizer), and now Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams (the main course). Readers can indulge in her memoir in any order, and will be immediately drawn into her personal stories. It feels like such an amazing honor to read the lifetime memories of someone I have admired for so long!  A movie or tv series based on Susan’s memoir is already in the planning stages! (We are all wondering which actress will be chosen to play Susan!) All three books are available now through Susan Branch’s website (autographed) and will be in bookstores everywhere in time for Mother’s Day! Next month, I’m really looking forward to another Afternoon Tea and book signing with Susan Branch. Of course, I will bring you along!! ♥♥

DSCN7017

Thank you so much for stopping to visit today!

It’s so sweet of you to keep me company

as I wait for busy, Springtime days in garden!

Happy weekend!

♡Dawn

P.S.  Are you already enjoying time outdoors, or nesting inside… while waiting for warm Springtime days?

Spark Joy

DSCN5095

Hi Friends!

Brrrrrr! In the Midwest, March certainly “roared in like a lion” yesterday bringing sleet and snow. This morning we woke up to bright sunshine and single-digit temperatures. More snow is on the way tomorrow. By this time of year, I always take Shelley’s quote to heart. These words, carefully stitched and framed, are hanging near the back door, to warm our hearts as we head out into the cold!

I’m so happy to welcome all of the new ‘kindred spirits’ who have begun following our blog over the past few weeks! There is so much to see hidden behind the slide-out sidebar. (Just click near the top of the orange bar). Brew a warm cup of tea and spend some cozy moments exploring the blog archives and the tag cloud. I hope you will find something to warm your heart and make you smile!

Life has slowed down considerably during the past few weeks due to a lengthy illness. Doctor’s visits seem to be my only adventures lately. I have been following doctor’s orders to the letter hoping to feel better very soon. While resting, I have enjoyed lots of extra reading time. I couldn’t wait to share a few thoughts about a new book…

DSCN6825

After reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up last summer, I eagerly awaited Marie Kondo’s follow-up book, Spark Joy. Fortunately, our library ordered several copies hot off the press in January. As I read, I searched for tips to recharge the next phase of my own Tidying Up celebration.

I will always cherish KonMari’s philosophy of Tidying Up, so wonderfully explained in her first book. KonMari’s new book, Spark Joy, added a few more tips that will be helpful as I finish tidying up komono (miscellaneous items) in the kitchen and two more closets. The biggest challenge of the Tidying Up celebration is always saved for last ~ deciding which sentimental items to keep. Armed with another dose of KonMari’s motivation and tips, I’m ready to take on the next part of my celebration!

DSCN6826

 As I read, I made note of a few of KonMari’s tips from Spark Joy that truly resonated with me. As I put her ideas into practice, I would love to share them with you. It was very interesting to read how KonMari has mellowed in her Tidying Up instructions, since getting married and the birth of her daughter. While staying true to her philosophy of having only those items that spark joy in your home, Spark Joy feels more realistic for today’s busy, complicated lifestyles.

Last Autumn, I enjoyed Tidying Up clothing and books. It was surprisingly easy to decide which items to keep! As I held each item in my hands, I could feel those that sparked joy in my heart. The paperwork category was much harder to tidy up. First, I stopped to do a bit of research to be sure that I was saving all of the necessary financial, household, and insurance papers. It was more of a challenge to feel the joy, as I began shredding papers from the file cabinets. (Honestly, there is still a bit of shredding to finish up!) I’m taking it slowly, against KonMari’s advice to work quickly. ‘Better safe than sorry’ when it comes to shredding!

I intentionally planned an extra-long break from my Tidying celebration throughout the holiday season. Although KonMari’s method of working by category is brilliant, it does create a huge mess while working through the process! Be mindful of this fact if you are planning a Tidying Up celebration of your own. In fact, in Spark Joy, KonMari says that as long as you apply the basics, it’s okay to do your own unique version of Tidying Up.

I’m still very enthusiastic about the process! Although I have had to slow down for the past few weeks, it is my intention to complete my once-in-a-lifetime Tidying Up celebration before the garden wakes up. I’m already looking forward to the next get-together of our little ‘Spark Joy’ club. We are a group of dear friends who live locally and enjoy getting together to encourage one another in this adventure. We always have such funny stories to share about Tidying Up!

DSCN6834

Yesterday, inspired by Marie Kondo’s thoughts on “becoming a person who matches the books you’ve kept,” I took a peek at some of the books that spark joy that I kept in my book collection…

DSCN6842

Most of my treasured books are nonfiction. On cold winter days, what could be more fun than reading gardening books and dreaming garden dreams?

DSCN6841

I’m truly passionate about growing perennials and herbs. Thoughts of spending hours tending the plants in my white picket fence herb garden warm my heart all winter long. I can still remember the day I bought The Pleasure of Herbs, while visiting a dear friend in Minnesota. From the moment I opened that book, I knew that herbs would always be a very special part of my garden!

DSCN6847

Although I don’t plant a vegetable garden, these are a few of the cookbooks that inspire recipes with fresh, organic ingredients. The Produce Bible is a great reference, filled with wonderful tips.  Tasha Tudor has always been one of my gardening inspirations.

DSCN6849

This stack of books feels right at home on a table beside my rocking chair. It is filled with inspiration for simple gatherings with family and friends, gardening, and lovely watercolors from nature.

DSCN6848

This small stack of books holds an antique lamp, on a tiny table beside the sofa in the living room. I enjoy reading these books often, choosing recipes for tea parties. Small gatherings of kindred spirits sharing tea make such special memories! Tea for two is my very favorite way to stay close to dear friends.

DSCN6844

Oh, my heart! Most of my friends know that Susan Branch has been my inspiration since her very first book was published. This is just part of my most favorite book collection of all. Heart of the Home will always be an extra-special book. I bought it for my mom when it was first published. She enjoyed it for so many years, and then gifted it back to me! I have given Susan’s books as gifts so often. Whenever I am antiquing, I always look for out-of-print Susan Branch books for special gifts. Such serendipity to find just the right book for a special friend!

Next month, Susan’s newest book, Martha’s Vineyard ~ Isle of Dreams, will arrive in the mail. It’s such a thrill every time a new book is published! I’m sure this will be my very favorite book of all. It is Part Two of Susan’s handlettered, watercolored memoir. I just can’t wait to read all about how she bought a little home of her own, planted a garden, grew as an artist, and met the love of her life! Kindreds to be sure!! I’m simply thrilled to enjoy Afternoon Tea with Susan Branch again in May, at a large tea party and book signing in her honor! Such a fan girl!

DSCN6837

My books most definitely reflect the person I aspire to be!

They spark joy in my life… and inspire me to ‘blossom’ every day!

♥♥♥

I’d love to hear about the most special books in your collection!

Perhaps we share some of the same favorites, as kindred spirits often do…

Happy Reading!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Heartfelt thanks for all of the beautiful cards, phone calls, and emails! Your friendships have truly warmed my heart and brightened my days! ♡♡

 

Frost on the Pumpkin

DSCN0929

Hi Friends!

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

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

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

There is always so much to do!

DSCN3312

It was time to harvest fragrant herbs.

I also gathered big bunches of Annabelle Hydrangeas.

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

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

Now all of the harvested flowers and herbs

are hanging from the ceiling

in the ‘Paper Garden’

to dry.

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

The last of the garden flowers.

The last of the garden flowers

As the sun fell lower into the sky,

my heart wanted needed

one last memory of the garden flowers.

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

and placed them into a simple, stoneware pitcher.

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

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

as darkness fell upon my Midwest garden.

Now…

I was ready.

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

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

⚛⚛⚛

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

Sunday afternoon was our annual family Pumpkin Fest!

Heartwarming memories are a key ingredient in our Pumpkin Soup.

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

on an Autumn afternoon

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

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

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

translated the recipe into English for us.

(Herzlichen Dank, liebe Freunde!) ♥♥

Organic Red Kuri pumpkin and potatoes

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

We always use a Red Kuri or Hokkaido pumpkin

to make Sabine’s wonderful Pumpkin Soup.

These pumpkins were much harder to find this year.

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

We finally found organic Red Kuri pumpkins at Whole Foods!

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

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

Oh, you can only imagine the fun

on that special afternoon three years ago!

Three dear friends, wearing aprons,

chopping, stirring, and laughing

in Sabine’s kitchen

while making both

Pumpkin Soup and happy memories!

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

♨♨♨

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

in our own kitchen a few weeks later.

Sabine surprised us with a phone call as I stirred,

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

(What a blessing to have a guardian angel in the kitchen!) ♥♥

Pumpkin, potatoes, broth, and onions boiling.

Ah, the heartwarming memories of our Autumn in Germany…

now shared with our family here each October.

Our Pumpkin Fest menu

is always a very simple one,

inspired by two of my favorite cooks…

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

Iowa Corn Bread ~ Susan Branch

Cranberry Apple Crisp ~ Susan Branch

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup, garnished with a sage leaf

Sabine’s Pumpkin Soup

1 onion, chopped

4-6 potatoes, cubed

1 Hokkaido pumpkin (or Red Kuri pumpkin)

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

          ♥    Cut up the potatoes and add to the pot.

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

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

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

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

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

          ♥    Puree the soup until creamy and taste.

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

  ♥  Guten Appetit!  ♥

Sabine's original Pumpkin Soup recipe

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

♨♨♨

DSCN6092

Do you plan any traditional Autumn activities

when the frost is on the pumpkin?

Hope you will share…

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

Wishing you a wonderful October weekend!

 Autumn blessings!

♡ Dawn

 

A Gift ~ Tied with Heartstrings

Tea and cake for a celebration

Hi Friends!

It felt like a gift! Truly it did!

It was one of those gifts that we wait a very long time for, making it feel even sweeter.

I wasn’t alone, as I waited. Thousands of Girlfriends were also waiting!

Beloved author, Susan Branch, has been hard at work for over a year, pouring through the diaries she has kept since her 20s and all of her cherished, old photos. She was lovingly writing her memoir, watercoloring her illustrations, and choosing just the right photos to tell her story.  Her newest book, The Fairy Tale Girl, published in September, is what we have all been waiting for!

Susan Branch book collection

My treasured collection of Susan Branch books

After reading her books again and again through the years, Susan’s devoted readers already knew many parts of her story. Her charming blog posts let us peek into her wonderful life today on Martha’s Vineyard.

Susan Branch speaking at Westmoreland Country Club

Susan is such a wonderful storyteller!

Over the years, so many of us have been blessed to meet Susan. We smiled as she shared her delightful stories about traveling through the English Countryside at book signings across the country. We listened with rapt attention, at a tea party in her honor, as she told us about the time she met the Beatles.

Susan Branch signing books after tea party

What a joy to meet Susan for the second time, at a lovely tea party!

Last May, Susan’s legions of devoted Girlfriends had the opportunity to pre-order her new book. While Susan was still busy illustrating her memoir, adding the photos, choosing the perfect paper, and ribbon bookmark, we cheered her on. ‘Our’ book was almost ready… and we were eagerly waiting!

Just two weeks ago, our books began arriving in our mailboxes! I was sitting on the front porch with with a guest, when our mail carrier walked up holding a package. I *might* have squealed and hugged the package! 🙂

I knew that it was a true gift, tied with heartstrings!

DSCN5885The long-awaited moment had arrived!

DSCN5889The Fairy Tale Girl ~ by Susan Branch

Oh, the joys of reading Susan’s life story…

With great anticipation, I had carefully planned ahead for some long, lazy afternoons of reading. I wanted to savor her words, her illustrations,… her story! Afternoons on the front porch, with The Fairy Tale Girl and a cup of tea, were such a gift. There were knowing smiles as she shared her childhood stories of growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. Laughter filled my heart and tears flowed. The beautifully watercolored song lyrics had me singing along to the soundtrack of my life. (I’m just a wee bit younger than Susan.)  As I read, I often paused to think about my own life during the very same time, making so many connections.

Each chapter felt like a gift from Susan.

She is sharing her heart with all of us!

What a privilege it is to know the real story

of  the author who has inspired me in so many ways over the years.

DSCN5926

It is so enchanting to watch Susan grow into the amazing woman we all admire today!

DSCN5924

The diaries that Susan has kept since she was in her 20s fill her memoir with vivid details

and the pure emotions of each chapter in her life.

She is very open and honest about her adventures in life,

her happy childhood, hopes, dreams, heartbreak,

and starting over.

It’s easy to see why Susan cherishes both her lifelong girlfriends

and the Girlfriends (fans) that celebrate her today.

DSCN5925

I had planned to read the entire memoir very slowly, savoring each moment.

However, when Susan’s heart was broken,

I just had to keep reading nonstop, trying to pull her through those years.

As the chapters of her life unfold,

Susan reminds us all that life is sprinkled with both sad and joyful parts.

It is just another one of Susan’s gifts ~ tied with heartstrings!

♥♥♥

Susan writes,

“A part of ALL of us is written into the pages

of The Fairy Tale Girl.”

♥♥♥

So true…

You might enjoy reading The Fairy Tale Girl, too!

As you read Susan’s story,

you will certainly reflect on your own life

(or perhaps your mother’s life),

growing up at a time

when women’s roles were evolving.

♥♥♥

It’s the very best kind of book ~

the kind that leaves you wanting more!

Susan leaves us with a real “cliff-hanger” at the end of the book.

Now we are anxiously waiting for Book Two of her memoir,

Martha’s Vineyard ~ Isle of Dreams.

Book Two will be published in Spring of 2016.

I can’t wait to read about how Susan runs away from heartbreak in California,

buys a little home of her own on Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts,

and makes all of her dreams come true!

It’s sure to be another lovely gift ~ tied with heartstrings!

♥♥♥

Whether you are a seasoned Susan Branch fan or brand new to her books,

you will love her engaging writing style and charming artwork.

Autographed copies are available now at SusanBranch.com

Visit your favorite independent bookstore soon.

Amazon will have the book later this month.

Happy Reading!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Can’t wait to chat about this book! If you are a nearby Girlfriend, let’s get together over tea to talk about the book. 🙂  Please share your thoughts with a comment or via email.  I look forward to chatting…