Change…

Hi Friends!

There is change in the air!

Can you feel it, too?

Today we were blessed with a mild, sunny day here in the Midwest. It was the perfect opportunity to rake leaves one last time and put my perennial and herb gardens to bed for a long Winter’s rest. As I worked, I reflected on the past year in the garden. An abundance of taller than usual perennials with extra-large blossoms was our reward for all of those rainy days. It was such a joy to bring my mom bouquets of flowers several times a week!

We had a growing season filled with unexpected surprises, too. In late April, a heavy, wet snowfall buried our tulip blossoms and scattered our Magnolia blossoms like confetti over the snow. Halloween brought several more inches of snow. We wished the brave, frozen trick-or-treaters a “Happy Halloween” (and a “Merry Christmas”, too!). They all giggled! 🙂 Brightly colored Autumn leaves blanketed our snowy yard in the days that followed. We have already shoveled Autumn snow several times this month.

Every November, I look forward to gathering stems of dried flowers and seed pods to fill antique wooden boxes and baskets for the front porch. Last week, it was an incredible challenge to collect garden gatherings that weren’t crushed by the early snow. This year, evergreen branches, shiny, holly-like sprigs of Grape Mahonia (Mahonia Aquifolium), pine cones, and one large bundle of dried Annabelle Hydrangeas (hanging in the garage) came to the rescue. Containers filled with garden gatherings help warm up the coldest of Winter days! I cherish the chance to enjoy these sweet garden memories when everything is covered under a thick blanket of snow.

As the seasons change, I’ve been enjoying The Simplicity of Cozy by Melissa Alvarez. It’s lovely to read about the traditions celebrated in many countries that encourage us to slow down, enjoy time in nature, and practice mindfulness. A warm afghan and a hot cup of herbal tea are the perfect accompaniments as I read and mark favorite passages. I’m looking forward to creating a special page in my Self-Care Journal for December with ideas inspired by this book.

We have a brand new family tradition beginning this Thanksgiving! 🙂 For the past 25 years, we have gathered around the table at our home with my brothers for Thanksgiving dinner. My parents always joined us for pumpkin pie, via Skype, from their desert home in Arizona. Last Thanksgiving, I was still in Arizona helping our parents prepare for their big move back to Illinois. So, my sweet husband carried on our Thanksgiving tradition on his own, by inviting my brothers for dinner, while my parents and I Skyped-in for pumpkin pie.

This year we are all so excited to celebrate our Thanksgiving together! 🙂  We will gather at my parents’ beautiful Senior Living Community for this happy celebration. The chef will prepare Thanksgiving dinner in their elegant dining room. The pumpkin pie will be sweeter than ever because our family will all be gathered around one table together! My heart is overflowing with gratitude…

One of my very favorite Thanksgiving traditions will not change at all. Many years ago, I wanted to encourage everyone to count our many blessings, amidst the always lively conversation during our Thanksgiving dinner. As I set the table, at each place setting I placed three kernels of unpopped popcorn. Between every two guests, I placed a small, vintage, pressed glass dish. When my husband and my brothers gave me a quizzical look, I explained…

At the very first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people gathered to celebrate Plymouth colony’s first harvest. By working together, they grew maize (corn) and other crops to sustain them. The three-day celebration was a time to give thanks for their harvest and all the ways they had worked together.

Then I reminded everyone that we were also gathering to give thanks and celebrate our strong family ties. So, throughout our dinner, each time we thought of something we were thankful for, we should drop one kernel of corn into the nearby glass dish, listening for the ringing sound it made. My kernels of corn slowly dropped into a dish, ting!… ting!… ting! as I silently counted my blessings throughout the meal. Little-by-little, the menfolk followed suit, silently counting their blessings. My heart warmed just knowing that we were adding a meaningful reminder of the reason we gather together on Thanksgiving!

Each year after, as I set a harvest table for Thanksgiving, I added an extra corn kernel to each place setting. Being mindful and taking time to count our blessings, silently during dinner, was becoming second nature. Sounds of ting! ting! ting! have become part of the soundtrack of our family feasts. Two years ago, each place setting had eight corn kernels. Last year, when the men gathered together for Thanksgiving, they decided to set up the corn kernels on their own to remember to count their blessings. 🙂 Imagine my surprise when they proudly shared the news with me via Skype!

At the end of each Thanksgiving dinner, I carefully place the “blessings” (corn kernels) into a small jar. It is slowly filling up with our family’s blessings! Each year, we use new corn kernels to count our blessings and add them to our Thankful Jar. You can be certain that I will bring lots of extra corn kernels and our Thankful Jar to my parents’ lovely, new  home this Thanksgiving!

Our long tradition reminds us all to be present and mindful of the reasons why we gather around the table filled with turkey, dressing, cranberries, squash, beans, cornbread,… and pumpkin pie. We are all looking forward to celebrating in a new place, surrounded by new friends and neighbors and their families. Oh, yes! It’s much more than pumpkin pie! Feel free to try this little tradition at your Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, or next special gathering. It’s so simple, but once those who gather catch on, it is a wonderful reminder of the purpose for our gathering!

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?

♥♥♥

All year long, as I count my blessings,

(and write them on the Gratitude page in my journal),

I feel so very grateful for all of the friends

who gather here at our little blog.

Thank you all for being here!

You inspire me in so many ways!

 

Wonderful news! A dear friend of our blog has just begun writing a new blog of her own. Vicky has lived in several different countries, in very different types of homes, and has recently moved back to her native New Zealand! She is a true kindred spirit, and a wonderful writer and photographer. Vicky and I met several years ago in an international, online book club for artists and other creatives. Letter writing and Skype visits have helped our friendship blossom over the years. Summertime is quickly approaching and  Vicky’s garden is thriving. I’m so happy that Vicky is now blogging at TheSpaciousLifeRealised.  🙂 Let’s surprise Vicky! Take a peek at her first post … and say “Hi!” I think you will enjoy her blog, too!

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving to all!

With warm gratitude,

♡ Dawn

 

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Warm at Heart

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Hi Friends!

Brrrrr! December has been so cold and snowy here in the Midwest. We have already shoveled 15.6 inches (39.6 cm) of snow at our house the past three weekends, with more snow on the way tonight. Arctic temperatures have kept us in the deep freeze.

Through it all, I have felt warm at heart,

while celebrating my December birthday with family and friends!

(Perhaps it is all those birthday candles! 🙂 )

Braving the cold or snow has always been part of my birthday fun!

Bundle up and come along…

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A new annual birthday tradition began this year

with a wonderful day at the German Christmas Market.

A dear friend and I spent the afternoon visiting the Christkindlmarket at Naper Settlement.

We layered on warm sweaters, long underwear, thick socks, boots,

scarves, hats, and our warmest gloves for our adventure.

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As we explored the outdoor market,

precious memories of my visits to the Karlsruher Christkindlesmarkt,

in southwest Germany, warmed my heart.

The sounds of Christmas music and the smells of Bratwurst,

Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes),

and Cinnamon Roasted Almonds filled the air.

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Handblown German glass ornaments are one of my favorite memories of

Christmas in Germany.

Every Christmas, I hang a beautiful German glass ornament in our dining room window

as a reminder of that special Christmas visit.

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We stood admiring these Santas, hand-carved and painted in Russia,

until our fingers and toes felt numb.

We were just fascinated as the shopkeeper explained their intricate designs.

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Traditional German Nutcrackers and Incense Smokers

brought a touch of Germany to the Midwest.

We saw German sweets of all kinds, handmade pottery from Poland,

nativity scenes hand-carved in Bethlehem,

German steins, hats, teas, and Lebkuchen (gingerbread).

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What a delight to visit the same Christmas store that I first visited in medieval Rothenburg!

After admiring the intricate, wooden Christmas Pyramids,

Advent calendars, and glass ornaments,

I knew exactly what I wanted to bring home as a memory of our day together.

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I chose candle clips and candles for our Christmas tree,

just like the ones I brought home from my Christmas in Germany so long ago.

Those special memories always warm my heart!

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It is the Christkind (Christ child) who brings the Christmas gifts

to children in many parts of Germany.

She is a young girl, with long blond curls, a white and gold gown,

a golden crown, and the wings of an angel.

During Advent, the children write letters to the Christkind,

sprinkle them with sugar,

and leave them on the windowsill.

On December 24th, German parents bring in the Christmas tree,

 decorate it with colorful ornaments, and clip candles onto the branches.

They leave the window open just a bit for the Christkind angel…

and close the living room door.

It warms my heart to remember my German family gathered around the table

enjoying a wonderful Raclette dinner on Heilige Nacht (Christmas Eve).

As we laughed and talked, we suddenly heard the sound of a little bell ringing.

The children jumped for joy,

knowing that the Christkind had flown in through the window,

put all the gifts under the tree, lit the candles,

rang her bell, and flown away!

(I was just as excited as the children! 🙂 )

We all went into the living room, and held hands in a circle around the Christmas tree.

The warm memories still bring tears to my eyes…

Together we sang Stille Nacht in German (I had packed a little paper with the lyrics.)

and everyone surprised me by singing Jingle Bells in English.

The candles on the tree were quickly blown out, so that we could open our gifts.

It was a night I will treasure forever!

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At the Naper Settlement Christkindlmarket, we toasted my birthday

with hot Gluhwein and warm, Bavarian pretzels!

It was an extra treat to meet a friendly woman at our table,

who is an artist from our town and a kindred spirit.

Warmed by the Gluhwein, we hurried through the Christkindlmarket one more time

in late afternoon cold, and headed for home.

What a heartwarming way to celebrate with a dear friend!

♥♥♥

My husband and I have a wonderful tradition of celebrating my birthday together

by making memories in a small town,

all decked out for Christmas.

For this birthday, I chose the pretty, little town of Geneva, along the Fox River.

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It was another frigid morning as we drove west,

singing along with the Christmas songs on the radio.

As we quickly walked hand-in-hand along the main street,

we stopped to visit the all of the festive shops in the beautiful, old houses.

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The Arctic temperatures kept most of the holiday shoppers away on that Saturday.

So, we soaked in all of the quiet, friendly, holiday charm…

warm at heart.

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December is such a wonderful time of year to explore Geneva.

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Families braved the cold, waiting in line to visit with Santa Claus

and snuggling under blankets for carriage rides through town.

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We lingered in the Geneva Antique Market,

where vintage Christmas decorations filled every booth.

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After visiting all of my favorite places in Geneva, we loaded our packages into our ‘sleigh’

and headed home, as snowflakes began to fall…

warm at heart!

♥♥♥

Heartfelt thanks dear family, friends, and blog friends for all of the

cards, songs, visits, calls, kindness, gifts, and birthday hugs.

My heart is truly warmed

and overflowing with blessings!

I hope you are warm and cozy wherever you are this weekend! ♥♥

Bring on the twinkle!

♡ Dawn

19. December ~ Edited to add…     My heart is breaking as the news reaches us of today’s  attack at the Christmas Market in Berlin. Our prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives in the attack, all of those who suffered injuries, and the first responders who rushed in to help. I add my voice to prayers for peace in our wounded world.

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The Call of the Drum…

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I can still hear the drums.

My heart will beat with the drums forever…

Hi Friends!

We recently returned from a wonderful visit with loved ones in Arizona.  Whether we are hiking in the Tonto National Forest or just walking through the neighborhood, we always admire Red Mountain for its distinctive shape and gorgeous color.

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Red Mountain stands on land owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Over the years, we have traveled through the reservation land many, many times. A major road, using the dry bed of the Salt River, passes right through the vast Indian reservation. This road is only closed when heavy rains turn it back into a fast-moving river.

This time, we felt so fortunate to spend a very special day on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa reservation!

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We couldn’t wait to attend our very first PowWow!  We arrived early and could hear the call of the drum as we walked across the grassy field. The beautiful, stirring sounds of a Drum circle welcomed us.

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We stood transfixed as we listened to the music of the drummers sitting in a tight circle around the ceremonial drum. The men were playing the drum and singing, while their wives and children sat in another circle around them. Well-known Host Drums traveled a great distance to perform at this Pow Wow. Black Bear (Quebec, Canada), Northern Cree (Alberta, Canada), Omaha White Tail (Nebraska), and Southern Thunder (Oklahoma) played throughout the two-day event.

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Traditionally, Pow Wows gather Native American people together as a celebration of American Indian culture. It is a powerful way of preserving the rich heritage of the American Indian people. It is a time of dancing, singing, renewing old friendships, and making new friends. The Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow shares Native American Arts and Crafts and traditional foods. Everyone is welcome!

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Groups of Gourd Dancers performed throughout the morning. The soul-stirring music brought together people from tribes across North America.  Drums and Singers are very important people in Native American culture. For without them, there would be no dancing. Their songs can be religious, for war, and social. At a Pow Wow, most of the songs are social, in nature.

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As we watched the Gourd Dancers, my husband noticed that this dancer’s beaded headband showed all of his Vietnam War medals. Throughout our history, Native Americans have served in our Armed Forces in greater percentages than any other ethnic group. They have served our country with honor in every major conflict for over 200 years. The service, dedication, and patriotism of our Native American veterans should be honored by all Americans.

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After a hot morning in the bright, desert sun, it was time to find more water and taste some traditional American Indian foods. We watched as they prepared our Frybread and topped it with cinnamon and sugar. My husband also ate Frybread filled with mutton and chili peppers. We enjoyed our picnic lunch with a friendly local who told us more about the Pow Wow. The hot sun, the sound of the drums and singing, and the traditional food made memories we will cherish.

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As the time drew near for the Grand Entry, we walked around admiring the traditional dress. It was fascinating to watch the dancers put on layer upon layer of brightly-colored fabric, intricate beadwork, moccasins with bells, beautiful jewelry, and immense feather adornments. I just couldn’t resist asking permission to take photos.

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Spectacular, from both the front and back, the friendly dancers posed with pride. I was very interested to learn the name of their tribe and which part of the United States they traveled from for this special gathering.

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By pure luck, we found ourselves standing at the exact place where the Grand Entry would begin. My camera and I were thrilled!!  🙂 It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see all of the dancers from only an few feet way. We admired their gorgeous, traditional clothing up close as they slowly walked by. It was an experience I will treasure forever, as 500 dancers of all ages moved to the beat of the Drum, ready to enter the arena. Their serene, serious faces told us that this was a very important experience for them, as well.

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During the Grand Entry into the arena, everyone stands while the flags are carried in: the U.S. flag, Tribal flags, the P.O.W. flag, and the Eagle Staffs of all of the Indian Nations present at the Pow Wow. The flags are usually carried by veterans. Despite the horrific treatment received from our country, Native Americans hold the U.S. flag in an honored position.

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The U.S. flag holds two special meanings for the American Indians. It is a way to remember all of their ancestors who fought against this country long ago. It also symbolizes the United States and the important role of Native Americans in our country. The U.S. flag also honors all of the Native Americans who have bravely fought for this country.

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As the Grand Entry begins, the veterans carrying the flags are followed by the Tribal Chiefs, Princesses, and Elders. The men dancers are always next in line, followed by the women dancers.

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The women Jingle Dancers wear a beautiful Jingle Dress (or Prayer Dress). Long ago, the dress was seen in a dream, as an object to bring healing to the sick. The Chippewa people sew rows of bells encircling a colorful skirt.  The bells are so close together that they jingle and ring while dancing. The Jingle Dancers’ bells sound just like falling rain as they dance. It is so beautiful!

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As the Drums play, singers from different tribes gather together to share traditional songs. Some of these songs are sung as ‘vocables,’ with no words, so that singers from all Indian Nations can join in, no matter their tribal language. These songs still hold deep  meaning to those who remember the original lyrics.

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Dances have always played a very important role in American Indian life. Most of the dances at Pow Wows are social dances. Although dancing styles and clothing have changed over the years, the meaning of the dances has not. The Native American culture is a vibrant, ever-changing way of life!

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Once all 500 dancers entered the arena that afternoon, a special Honor Song was sung to honor the flags and the veterans. After a prayer, the dancing continued. We found seats in the front row of the bleachers and were mesmerized by the colorful clothing and the beat of the Drum.

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There were several huge Circle dances with all of the dancers moving in circles, like a coiling snake. Different Drum circles provided the music, while the dancers moved to the rhythm of the Drum.

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It was so beautiful to see people from all generations, from the Tiny Tots (up to 4 years old) to the Golden Age (60+ years old) dancers sharing their long history and culture. The best dancers and Drum circles would be awarded prizes at the close of the two-day Pow Wow.

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As the dancers moved in the hot sun all afternoon, their passion and dedication as they celebrated their culture truly moved me. Sitting in the hot sun took its toll on us, yet they were dancing in layer upon layer of cotton, deerskin, beads, and feathers. After we left, there would be another Grand Entry in the evening and another day of dancing and drumming on Sunday. What an unforgettable celebration!

A Pow Wow is such a wonderful way of bringing the past into the future!

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The Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow left such a powerful impression on my heart. I’m sure that the vivid colors and serene feelings of that day will inspire my artwork and writing always.

I can still hear the drums.

My heart will beat with the drums forever…

Enjoy the Grand Entry of the 30th Annual Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow…

(Video credit: rd47blog)

30th Annual Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow ~ Men’s Traditional dance                    

(Video credit:  rd47blog)

♥♥♥

Heartfelt thanks for always taking the time to visit and leave thoughtful comments on our blog.

Each time I count my blessings, I think of my dear family, friends, and blog friends!

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You inspire me to grow in so many creative ways!

Happy Thanksgiving!

♡ Dawn

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