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Archive for inspired by autumn

celebrate . Thanksgiving Tree on the Farm [printable]

The Thanksgiving Tree has become a farm tradition. We have a branch, old and dry now, that stay’s standing in a crockery pitcher in the corner, waiting to be set at center stage on the table during our Thanksgiving holiday week. Held up by rocks collected from the road, the “tree” started as my effort to sow some seeds of gratitude when my children were young. That first year, we set up our tree at home using a branch we had found on the farm during October. Baby Girl was only a couple of months old — too young to offer her contributions, and the boys were at a stage when it wasn’t hard to get them to look for sticks! The idea was to add paper leaves or shapes to the tree each days with little “Today I’m thankful for…” messages written on them. We never did it every day. We weren’t that disciplined. But, it gave us a chance to talk about gratitude at the dinner table, and make note of our blessings.

Since then, we’ve spent every Thanksgiving at the farm, and the Thanksgiving Tree has become something we do during our week there. The first year we stayed at Busy Bee for the holiday, we found a branch, and we’ve kept it since. Some years, we’ve cut out our own leaf shapes. And, several years, I’ve created a printable for us to use and also share the tradition with others. I was looking back at a few “leaves” from the years, and it was such a blessing to see each of our hearts revealed in those few words. The treasured places, possessions, and people. It was sweet to see my loves’ handwriting change over time as they’ve grown. And, neat to see that some of our gratitude hasn’t changed. Through all the changes in our lives, what a blessing to count our blessings!

I’ve shared some of our memories here, and I’ve included another printable for 2017. You can download here or click the image below if you’re celebrating with your own Thanksgiving Tree. I’m looking forward to pulling that crockery to the forefront again next week, and adding these tags to it.

As I wrote about that very first Thanksgiving Tree…

I’m convinced that gratitude is an antidote to worry and complaint, and it’s the catalyst for kindness and generosity. In times of joy, in times of hardship, I need it. We need it.

discover . Nine Farm Specimens

There was a time when my children wanted to create a museum. We were in the phase of hoarding rocks and other tiny objects in our pockets, and on a constant quest for outdoor things in cool shapes and colors. This was also the phase when playing with dirt was a priority and walking around outside was a continual pique of curiosity, not just getting from one place to the next.

I noticed in those special days that there was a clear scale for the best nature objects, a cool factor we seemed to consistently assign to the most highly prized finds. Anything heart-shaped was immediately brought to Mommy. Anything with petals. After all, giving Mommy flowers was the ultimate feel-good activity. Things shaped like letters or numbers were happy surprises. And, anything containing bones or teeth was the ultimate discovery. That’s what made the farm the center of museum curation. Walks on gravel roads, pasture trails, and stream beds are places where bones and teeth tend to show up. Along with seed pods and oddly-shaped earth clumps, and the occasional rusted tool.

The museum was to be located in the barn at Busy Bee and serve as a showcase of our most exciting discoveries. Really, a showcase of every single little thing that any one of us thought was precious enough to tuck in our pockets or throw in the wagon. The barn was the perfect location because it already contains its own collection of old jars and cans, and rusted tools and horse bridles and such. We dreamed of little displays of countless “heart rocks”, the bones of cows and coyotes, dried flowers and berries, and the remnants of withered mushrooms and acorn tops.

The museum never really materialized, although much curation happened on the farm table and on shelves in the house and baskets where we still gather our “collection.” The children have grown, of course, and their interest in saving rocks and plucking flowers sometimes wanes. But, they still notice them. They still say “Mommy, there’s a heart rock!” sometimes. And I mark it down in my soul. I saw it on our trip to the Smoky Mountains last month. The beauty and overwhelming curiosity of nature. The wonder of exploring it. It’s still there. For me and for them. Just masked sometimes by the pull of busyness and technology. And growing up, but resisting it.

It’s funny, though. When we go to Busy Bee, we slip right back in that curation mode. There, the rocks and blooms and curious finds seem to hold more fascination than anywhere else. There, we’ve made it our mission to find the fascination. To wander. To look up and look down. To touch what we see. And even sometimes to pick it up and put it in our pockets.

I found some still life photos of some of our farm collection. We all loved the 9-shaped twig in the one above – or is it a 6? I went with 9, and included nine views of the colors, shapes, and curiosities of dying things. All telling their own story of autumn on the farm. Enjoy! And, I hope they inspire you to look up and down, too.

November is Here! [printable calendar]

November has slipped in under the radar for us. October was filled with projects and kids activities, a few weeks of travel, all topped off by a little Halloween fun with parties and trick or treating with friends. The last week has been crazy with enough activity to make my head spin. I had the opportunity to travel to Asheville, North Carolina last week for a public relations conference, and I’m still processing all the great information presented there. I came home to a sweet birthday celebration orchestrated by my Baby Girl, complete with decorations, a rainbow cake that “Special Agent Rainbow” decorated herself, hand-wrapped presents, and a pretty robust party plan. That celebration shifted right into Halloween class parties and a failed attempt to find a pumpkin to carve into jack-o-lantern guise. Trips around town to all the grocery stores yielded not a single pumpkin, so we had to satisfy ourselves with postponing that tradition until next year and promises for me to plan better! We visited with dear friends on Halloween night for party foods and trick-or-treating, and suddenly, we woke up to a new month! November, the month for “grateful praise,”  has arrived, and I’m totally unprepared! So, today (a day late with my printable calendar), I’m reminding myself that gratitude doesn’t really require much preparation. Just a heart decision. And a commitment to looking at each moment in a new way.

On our schedule this November:

  • A new branding and strategic planning campaign for one of my long-time clients
  • Celebrating a trip to the district Reading Fair for Baby Girl
  • Pulling together proposals for a few new clients
  • Preparing to chaperone Travis’ trip to Auburn, Alabama with his robotics team
  • A few new holiday products I have in the works (hint: pennants and the North Pole)
  • Celebrating Elisha’s 11th birthday
  • Our annual trip to Busy Bee for Thanksgiving week
  • Christmas decorating weekend
  • The anticipated arrival of Gabriella, our family elf
  • Watching Travis march in the Christmas parade

It’s an exciting month. The cooler temperatures are finally here. There is anticipation in the air for what’s coming up. And, a little fear of the rush of those activities. November’s rich tapestry of celebrations and demands can be intimidating. With the turn of the calendar, I find myself ushering in a renewed desire to draw my blessings closer, to nurture only the thinking that pulls me forward, and to protect the most precious moments from distractions and urgencies that water down my attention. The challenge November is to live each hour by carving out my own priorities. And, as this month’s printable calendar reflects, to fill those hours with rightful and grateful praise. I invite you to download the calendar and enjoy. Happy November.

 

collect . 13 Jack O Lanterns for the 13th

It’s Friday the 13th, and we’re almost in full spook here! The kids and I been having fun getting our house harvest-ready over the last couple of weeks. The mantle is decorated with turkeys and pumpkins. The Halloween and Thanksgiving books are gathered in our “book basket,” and the wreaths are up on the doors. This weekend, we’re planning to add our little family of scarecrows to the porch along with some pumpkins and colorful crotons, and the decorating will be complete. My kids have never really gotten into trick-or-treating that much. They’ve always been more interested in handing out candy at the door than walking around the neighborhood. But, that doesn’t mean we shy away from “Jack.” It’s not every year that Friday the 13th falls close to Halloween, so in honor of this so-called unlucky day, I wandered around the house and captured a lucky 13 from our jack-o-lantern collection – all ready to lend their toothy grins to the season’s festivities. Enjoy!

go . Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains

Tomorrow, my children are on Fall Break, and we are heading to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a few days. I have visited the Smoky Mountains many times, but last October, was the first time I’d taken the kids there.They decided right away they wanted to go back. We enjoyed a “town day” and a “Park day” on that last trip, and this time we’re adding one extra day to be sure we fit in all our favorites. As I’ve been gearing up for the trip his week, I’ve been looking back through some of the photographs I took on our last trip to the Smoky Mountains. I took some time to record my memories in watercolor – the first time I’ve painted this week.

Last year on our visit to the Smokies, we spent most of our “Park day” exploring Cades Cove. It’s a great driving loop with mountain views and a collection of preserved primitive structures – churches, houses, and barns. It also includes some of the last pasture lands still maintained in the National Park.

The historic churches in Cades Cove are quiet, moving experiences, each standing empty now with only echoes and strong light from the windows to highlight their sacred spaces. There are graves from pioneers and mountain folk who populated the area over the last few centuries. And, the houses and barns show a small glimpse of what life might have been like. It’s not unusual to see wildlife in Cades Cove (and throughout the Park). On our last visit, it was wild turkeys. Depending on the temperatures, the views are a display of oranges, maroons, yellows, browns, and a rainbow of green shades with that namesake gray-blue smoky haze over the upper elevations.

This year, I’m hoping we can drive over the mountains to visit Cherokee, North Carolina on our “Park day,” and I’m looking forward to new views in one of our favorite places. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy these views of our trek through Cades Cove.

Welcome October! [printable calendar]

I’m so excited to be welcoming October into our lives this week! It’s my favorite month during my favorite season of the year… autumn! October usually likes to play with us in Mississippi, with both summer and fall days, but those crisp blue skies and the blooms on my sasanqua camellia don’t lie. Autumn is on the way.

This month, I’m looking forward to a couple of travels that are sure to give me a fresh change of scenery, some great autumn views, and the chance to experience some new things. Later this week, we’ll be traveling back to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during our school’s fall break, and the children and I are looking forward to seeing the mountains again and getting a glimpse at the beginning of leaf changing season. Then, later in the month, I’m traveling to Asheville, North Carolina, for a public relations conference. I’ve never been to Asheville, and I’m hoping to have a few moments during the trip to explore the downtown area. And, of course, more changing leaves and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Meanwhile, we took a trip up into the attic last weekend to retrieve our boxes of fall decorations, and the house is slowly starting the reflect the harvest season — with a few spooks thrown in. We’re planning to have our annual “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” viewing with popcorn tomorrow night, so it will feel like the season has officially begun.

I pulled together a few autumn images that are inspiring me today, and I hope you enjoy this month’s printable calendar along with its cutaway art. It’s taken from a similar autumn print in my Etsy shop. You can download at the links below. Happy Fall, Y’all!

PRINTABLE CALENDAR

My Favorite Month is Here! [printable calendar]

October is here! A few cooler temperatures arrived just in time to welcome the new month, and we spent part of yesterday putting out our harvest decorations… halloween trinkets we’ve collected over the years, fall kitchen linens, berries and vine garlands, reminders to give thanks, and pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins! Later this week, we’ll add our scarecrows to the front porch — one for each of us, plus their dad as a memory — to welcome us home each day.

Last night, we watched “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” with dinner — our official fall kick-off tradition. I love how every one of us has our favorite parts to the Peanuts classic that’s turning 50 this year, and even though my little ones are growing too fast, that doesn’t seem to keep the laughter away as we revisit the antics of Charlie Brown, Linus and the gang.

This month, we’re planning trips to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for fall school break in a week or so, and later in the month, we’ll head back to the farm to celebrate my birthday with s’mores and pasture walks through Busy Bee. Fall often seems like a new beginning to me, which I’ll take. I’m determined to slow down and take time to enjoy this favorite season!

Thinking of fun times ahead, I put together a printable October calendar with cut-away artwork to enjoy… Take me to your candy! Indeed. You can download at the links below. Happy October!

PRINTABLE CALENDAR

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celebrate . Autumn in our Corners

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It’s beginning to look like Fall! It’s even beginning to feel like Fall — especially in the mornings! This is probably my favorite time of year, and I love having small bits of autumn celebration tucked into various corners around the house. We make a production out of getting our “decorations” out of the attic, and I love that the kids know where things are “supposed” to go. They’re getting older, but I still see that gleam in their eye when they see little jack-o-lanterns, pumpkins they made in preschool, and scarecrows. We pull out some of our nature artifacts — feathers and “horse apples” from the farm, driftwood from the coast, cotton bolls from the pumpkin patch — and combine them with trinkets from past years, and hand-crafted items we’ve found in the Smoky Mountains. Dollar store finds from this year mix with dime store items from when I was a child and parts of costumes my mom made for me to wear. I guess those are “vintage” now — ha! We’ve been decked out for fall for a few weeks and will enjoy the warmth and inspiration through Thanksgiving. Here are a few glimpses of our autumn corners. Enjoy!

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make . Paper Pumpkins

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Last week I spent a little time restocking my Small Pond “pop-up” shop with some fall items and a new collection of stationery. The pop-up is located in the Liza Tye & Company shopping mall on Academy Road in Starkville, and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to take a look and shop all the great vendors there if you are in the area! Some of the fall items I included are a couple of paper craft pumpkin centerpieces I created from hand-decorated paper, and today I’m sharing a little of the process. They are not difficult to make at home, and are a great way to repurpose already-used paper.

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I found a few colored sheets of paper in various textures, and hand-painted some with patterns. Card stock weight paper works best for what’s required for crafting this piece.

The pattern for the individual pumpkin parts can really be any shape you want, as long as it’s symmetrical. Creating your pattern along a fold helps to ensure it is identical on both sides. For the two sizes of pumpkins shown above, I used 20 pumpkin shapes for the larger 8 1/2″ centerpiece, and 16 pumpkin shapes for the smaller 5″ version. Each pumpkin shape needs to be folded in half to create the centerpiece.

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Once all the paper parts are cut and folded, they are stacked together in the repetitive order you would like to use for your pumpkin. Tie the shapes together tightly with twine at the center point to hold them all together. I chose a small jute twine that could curl around the pumpkin top like tiny vines.

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Hot glue or some other very quick-drying version works best for this project since the pieces will end up fanning out into a sphere like an accordion. For the best fanning look, I alternated gluing tops together and then bottoms of the pumpkins as shown above. Keep going all the way through the stack until the piece forms a full pumpkin.

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Pumpkin definitely needs leaves and vines, which I cut from one of my paper colors. Card stock can be easily spiraled by twisting it around a pencil. To finish out the pumpkin, I used a square of thin, kraft packing material to form the stem. I wadded up the paper first to crinkle it, and then rolled it into a loose tube and twisted for an organic look.

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Make a slit in the bottom of the “stem” and hot glue to the top of the pumpkin. Then, add leaves and vines to suit your tastes.

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For our Thanksgiving table, I’m working on a version of the pumpkins made from all white and off-white paper, some in hand-made flower petal-infused paper I found. I’m hoping to add a little hand-dipped watercoloring for some subtle harvest look. There are so many options for decorating paper to match any tablescape style — from fun craftiness to artisan elegance. You can purchase the pumpkins at Liza Tye or create some of your own!

Happy pumpkin-making!

sojourn . Glimpses of Fall Break at Busy Bee

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We were very excited to spend part of last week at our family’s farm land for the children’s Fall Break. We enjoyed many of our usual farm activities, and I thought I would share a few inspiring thoughts and views discovered there. We aren’t usually at the farm until later in the fall, so this time we had the chance to see a nice mix of summer and autumn as well as a few wild flowers and plants we don’t often get to see.

We call the farm “Busy Bee” after an old African American church that was once located in the area. It may be just a name our family uses, but it’s stuck since I was a child. For this trip — and for the first time in a long time — I left my laptop at home and had a welcomed break from work activities. I didn’t even take my paints or sketch book, and I didn’t miss them! A true sign I was due for a mental break from creative activities.

We filled our days with down time, conversations, and walking in the pastures. We found a couple of new trees to climb, checked out the hay yard, walked the Southwest end of the property, and explored the Dry Creek bed (which was actually dry this time of year). It was a much needed change of scenery for me and for the kids, and in that void of deadlines and creative pursuits, I had the chance to let the whirling of thoughts and ideas in my mind settle. I came home with this small reminder written in my journal…

It’s hard to take the right steps forward if I am not disciplined to spend time listening to my own inner voice.

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fallbreak15g [pasture wildflowers we haven’t seen before]

fallbreak15f [sometime rust can be very colorful]

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fallbreak15d [lilypads forming on the back pond]

fallbreak15c [the remaining two walls of an old hay shed – before my time]

fallbreak15a [an honest to goodness tree bench discovered in the woods at the Southwest corner]

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