Spark Joy


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…


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!


 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!


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…


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


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!


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.


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.


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.


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!


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! ♡♡



Celebrating Susan!



Celebrating Susan… today and always! ♡


Hi Friends!

Inspiration is all around us. But every once in a while, if you are very fortunate, you will discover someone who inspires you in so many ways! If you are very, very fortunate… you may even meet that special someone who has influenced your life, and have the chance to share your gratitude. I’ve been saving this story until this week ~ for it is such a warm and joyful memory. Hope you will feel a spark of my excitement, too!

Today we are celebrating Susan Branch!

Susan Branch in her garden on Martha's Vineyard

Susan in her garden on Martha’s Vineyard    {Photo Credit ~ Joe Hall}

Susan Branch is the delightful author and illustrator of fourteen best-selling ‘Heart of the Home’ books. Each book is a hand-lettered, watercolored treasure to be enjoyed again and again! It was my good fortune to discover Susan in 1986, when her first book, Heart of the Home, was published. This special book was the perfect gift for my mom, who loves making home a warm, cozy, happy place! Over the years, my collection of Susan’s books has grown. Her books have been given, with love, as special gifts of the heart. Susan has hand-lettered and painted so much love into each of her books. Filled with whimsical charm, Susan’s books feel “like children’s books, written for grown-ups!”

Her creativity is stirred, blended, and mixed with Susan’s kindness, joy, and caring ways.  She is adored by her fans worldwide!! Susan has always had a strong desire to connect with her readers, through personal letters, lovely newsletters, and her delightfully engaging website. Through her charming blog, Susan has gathered a community of kindred spirits, who enjoy the small moments that make each day special! We are the ‘Girlfriends’ ~ kindred spirits, one and all!

What joy the Girlfriends felt when Susan and Joe decided to celebrate their 25th anniversary with a crossing on the Queen Mary 2, and two months spent meandering through the English Countryside! We shared the adventure right along with them on her blog. Susan’s letters, photos, watercolors, and videos thrilled us all. As they traveled, Susan kept a detailed diary and upon returning, spent many months hand-lettering and watercoloring her latest book,

                  A Fine Romance ~ Falling in Love with the English Countryside


Heart-shaped gingerbread scones and a cup of tea greeted my copy of A Fine Romance… hot off the press. What a joy to read again and again!

A Fine Romance is a lighthearted, hand-painted treasure sharing her affection for Joe, their time in England, and the beauty of a homemade life. It’s part love story and part travel guide… and proof that dreams can come true!  I laughed, cried, and my heart danced as I followed Susan and Joe’s journey through the English countryside. Susan’s charming diary leads us through wildflower meadows, along grassy fields filled with lambs, and takes us into the historic homes and gardens of her favorite artists and writers. Together we travel footpaths that lead to lovely tea rooms, quaint antique shops, and cozy inns. An interactive index on Susan’s website provides so many helpful tips, resources, and ideas for enjoying an adventure through the English countryside ~ a real journey or a shared dream!


 While hand-lettering and painting in her studio on Martha’s Vineyard,

Susan promised herself that when the book was finished, she would come…

meet the Girlfriends!

So, last summer, Susan and Joe packed up their ‘A Fine Romance’ van and set out on a cross-country booksigning tour. Two events were planned in Chicagoland and Girlfriends came from throughout the Midwest to greet her. You can only imagine my excitement and joy!! I would have the great fortune to meet the person who has inspired our cozy home, several of our family traditions, our holiday gatherings, my garden, and so much more! ♡ These magical events happened exactly one year ago this week…


 Visiting with Susan Branch… 


Girlfriends crowded into Anderson’s Bookshop to meet Susan Branch.

Anderson’s Bookshop was completely filled with chatty Girlfriends ~ kindred spirits and special friends meeting for the very first time! Susan had designed special name tags for us to wear, so that we would recognize one another. (It felt like we already ‘knew’ one another from our conversations on her blog over the years). It truly felt like a reunion! Susan shared wonderful stories about their adventures in England. She answered all of our questions. We were enchanted, as she took time to talk with each one of us, before signing our books. We all enjoyed the chance to chat with Joe, too.  I will always remember being the first in line to visit with Susan… and the big hug she gave me! I was so thrilled and excited, that it took my breath away! Just thinking about it today makes my heart smile!



Susan and Joe traveled across the country in their special ‘A Fine Romance’ van, bringing joy and happiness everywhere they stopped!

We just couldn’t let this magical, long-awaited evening end. So, our conversation continued outside later in the evening.

We ended our first visit by saying, “See you again at the Tea Party!”


Two days later, over one hundred Girlfriends gathered at the Westmoreland Country Club for an Afternoon Tea with Susan Branch. It was such fun to meet even more Girlfriends. Susan would be so thrilled to know that so many of the Girlfriends that met in person that afternoon have kept in touch, becoming true friends! We are ever so grateful to Susan, for bringing us all together! When Joe and Susan arrived for the Tea Party, Susan spotted me (with my camera, of course) and greeted me with a cheery “Hi, Dawn!” It was a perfect afternoon… a Tea Party with Susan!


Joe and Susan arrived at the Westmoreland Country Club for a grand Tea Party.


 Susan shared many of her favorite stories about their adventures in the English Countryside.


She charmed us with the story of how she met the Beatles!


As she enchanted us all with her storytelling, I peeked over at Joe, listening closely, from across the room.


Love filled the whole room that afternoon!


{Photo Credit ~ Joe Hall}

Then it was time to wait in the looooong line to talk with Susan, as she signed our books. When you are waiting in line with kindred spirits, it is a true joy!


(Photo Credit ~ Karen P.}

 Can’t you just feel the happiness? 


It was just lovely to meet you, too, Susan!

You are such a blessing in our lives!

{Please come visit us again!}

Scatter sunshine!


                                        P.S.  Susan is currently working hard on her next book… and we can’t wait!