Monday, January 26, 2015

monkey mind

 There's a Buddhist term called "monkey mind". It's when your mind is whirling and won't turn're feeling restless and unsettled. That's how I'm feeling today. I suppose it's part of
having anxiety.

All kinds of random thoughts have been going through my head all day...
I need to empty the dishwasher; I still need to put the clothes in the dryer; the kitchen
garbage needs to be taken out; the porch is a solid sheet of ice...I really should sprinkle
some salt there; oh yeah, while I'm outside I need to fill up the bird feeder. I wonder how
L (a relative in the hospital) is doing? I'm concerned about C and B (a couple of
friends who have cancer). Wonder if Tim's car is still pulling to the right when he brakes?

Oh shoot, I really need to bag up all that stuff for donation that's sitting downstairs. And
 then I'll need to load it into my car trunk. We need some groceries...
should I go do that today? Nah, I'll go Wednesday. The well guy is coming tomorrow to
shock chlorinate our well and so we won't be able to use our water for 24 hours. Can Brian
run to the store tonight while I'm at yoga class and pick up several gallons of water?
Which reminds me - better fill up the bathtub with water tomorrow so we can use that to
flush our toilets. Wow, it's January 26 already? Some friend's birthdays are coming up.
I'd better add birthday cards to my shopping list.

 And on and on it goes.

 So. This is where I'm writing this post. You can't tell from the view out the window, 
but it's snowing out there. I am watching the flakes dance around in the wind
and it's actually peaceful. Whaddya know. I'm looking at my poor plant by the window
 and willing it to perk up and hang in there. It's actually an outdoor plant from last summer
 that I brought inside when the weather got cold. Warmer weather is coming soon, little
plant. I promise.

 And this is where I'm headed now. My yoga mat. Some deep breathing, gentle
stretches, and...being still. Something that is very hard for me to do, but I'm learning.
It does help to calm that darn monkey mind.

 Check out this short, informative Huffington post article on how to tame your monkey mind.
Namaste! And happy Monday.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

a beautiful space ~ and a peek at my new curtains

In the previous post about my kitchen, I said that I moved most of my cookbooks into
my office. This small baker's rack is just the right size for my collection. I can sit in my
red chair and look through a cookbook, or take the book over to my desk by the window.

I love this sunny, peaceful room, so I thought I'd take you on a little tour. For those of 
you who aren't aware or are new to my blog, this room used to be my oldest son, Phil's 
room. Phil passed away suddenly in September 2009. The canvas family photo - the last 
family photo taken with all four of us in July 2009 - is one of my greatest treasures.

Isn't this a beautiful, vintage dresser? It's been in my family for many years. My sister
had it in her bedroom when she was growing up, though it was either white or pink at
the time. Or, maybe it was once pink and then my mom painted it white. Hard to remember
from 45-50 years ago!  Anyway, when I was pregnant with Phil, my mom gave the dresser
 to a family friend and she refinished it for us and gave it to me as a present when Phil
was born. He used this dresser for his entire 21 years. Now Brian and I share it.

This is the space to the right of the bulletin board, Phil's memory shelf,
plants and ~ surprise ~ more books.

The living room curtains came in from World Market and hubby patiently hung them for
 me today - which was more involved than it sounds. Isn't that the way it usually goes?
The curtain rod was originally hung lower. So that meant taking it down, patching up the
holes, repainting the wall, then hanging the curtain rod in a new spot. Brian is very patient
 with my decorating shenanigans.

Anyway, I love these curtains! They bring much-needed color into the living room, I dig
 the design, and the material is a heavy, quality cotton. They just need to be hemmed. 
Since I don't sew, I will be taking them to a local tailor. And another thing on the living
 room to-do list: getting a few more quotes for the mantle work around the fireplace.
What projects are you working on around your house? 

Linking up with Cozy Little House Tweak it Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

kitchen follies ~ and a recipe

The organizing and rearranging on with the kitchen. I went with a clean,
classic look on this side of the kitchen with using a lot of white in the cabinet and on the
wall shelves. Also, that's a new painting hanging on the wall. I inherited it from my aunt
when she moved last fall. I'm not crazy about the red painted frame as it's too stark 
for the painting, but since I have red accents in my kitchen and the painting is the
right size for this wall space, it'll do for now. 

Most of my cookbooks were moved into a small bookcase in my office, but I left a
few on top of the fridge and on the butler's table that you can see in the first photo.

I cleaned out my baking cabinet and my main food cabinet. I don't have a pantry, so this
is where I keep all my dry goods and staples such as grains, dried fruits and raw honey,
 pastas, dried beans, tea bags, and lots of spices. I like having the grains, pastas, and
beans in glass jars instead of all that plastic and cardboard packaging. Much easier
to see what you have and easier to fit into the cabinet, too. As for the spices, I find it 
easiest to keep them categorized by use. For example, on the basket in the left, that's
where I keep all the Italian spices: oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, bay leaves, etc.
The basket on the right holds cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cloves, ginger, nutmeg,
and star anise. Another basket holds spices for chili making: cumin, chili powder, 
cayenne, mexican oregano. And another basket holds spices such as curry powder,
garam masala, lemongrass, and turmeric. When you're making a certain cuisine ~
say, spaghetti sauce ~ it's easy to just grab the basket of Italian spices.

I am making vegetarian tacos for dinner tonight. We eat a lot of meatless meals
and I found this recipe on Pinterest. The lentil-rice concoction is in the Crockpot right
now and the house smells so good. I "cheated" and opened the lid to the Crockpot
about halfway through cooking (I did let it cook longer after I opened the lid - I know
that opening the lid takes off about 20 minutes of cooking time) to see how the mixture
looked and it's nice and thick, just like hamburger meat. I'm going to top our tacos with
salsa, guacamole, and a little bit of shredded cheese. Click here for the recipe. And 
interestingly enough, the name of the blog is Melanie Makes! No, it's not me. It's
another Melanie.

Hope your week is off to a good start!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

starting with the living room

 Thank you, everyone for the get well wishes. That nasty respiratory flu bug lasted
"only" four days ~ which isn't bad for the flu, I suppose. But those four days were the
sickest I've been in many years. There wasn't much I could do except rely on good
old-fashioned home remedies (sipping warm water with raw honey and fresh lemon;
steaming my face over a pot of water with tea tree oil in it) and upping my dosages
of vitamins C and D3 and Allibiotic (a mixture of elderberry, olive leaf extract, garlic,
oregano oil and rosemary oil). I don't like to take anything "over-the-counter"....
I prefer to use natural ingredients whenever possible. I find most of that OTC stuff makes
me wired and sets my heart to racing anyway.

So now that I'm well, I've been working on rearranging and organizing some rooms.
It's frigidly cold here (below zero temps), so what better time than to start indoor
 organization projects? I have so much to work on, but I started with the living room. 
Remember how the black ladder bookcase used to be on the other side of the living room
 with vintage suitcases and plants stacked next to it? I moved it to this wall where the 
buffet used to be. I think it looks so much better over here - really opens this space up. 
That buffet is so big and cumbersome that it took up that entire space and crowded out the couch.  

Brian moved the buffet for me to where the black ladder bookcase used to be. (Side
note: my mom said this spring she wants to teach me how to re-do the buffet. I'd like
to paint it flat black and leave the top with the mahogany finish, but fixed up and varnished.)
In other words, I traded places with these two pieces of furniture. Now the two big
things are deciding what to hang above the buffet (art work? floating shelves?) and
deciding what to finally do with that darn fireplace wall!

I had ordered a large white moulded floating shelf to go on the fireplace wall
and I was going to put corbels under it - kind of like a faux mantletop. After waiting
six weeks for the shelf and some shipping mishaps, I finally got the shelf. It was damaged
in three places, one of which was a deep crack. Totally unacceptable. I wrote to the company
and asked for my money back - which they gave me. And they didn't even want the 
shelf back! In the meantime, I found a carpenter who does custom wood working and
sent him some pictures of what we're looking for as far as a simple mantle. He's working
up a quote for us. I am hoping that it's not too expensive. After living in this house for almost
26 years, I think it's about time we finally get this fireplace wall finished the way it should've
been in the first place! It's always been a matter of finances though.

 I moved the vintage suitcases and plants in front of the window - another thorn-in-my
side area. I hate that fake plastic brown molding around the windows. I don't want to
replace it with white molding until we get new windows. So I'm thinking this spring that
I will just prime and paint the molding white. I also desperately need new curtains. I
have tried several pairs and nothing has looked "just right". I was looking at curtains online
yesterday and found these from World Market. I think I may order them.

 Today, I'm tackling the kitchen. Cleaning out the junk drawer, the baking cabinet,
the food pantry cabinet, and the freezer. Organizing my cookbooks and redoing
the inside of the china cabinet. What organizational projects are you working on
this January?


Friday, January 2, 2015

yucky way to start the new year

 There was no celebrating going on here on New Year's Eve. I'm sick. I finally went to the
doctor today to make sure I didn't have bronchitis or pneumonia, and the good thing is that
my lungs are clear. However, I do have the flu.

 I'm a hacking, congested, sneezing, tired, feverish mess. I haven't been this sick
in years and I know this too shall pass, but when you're in the thick of it, it stinks.

 So, just a little note to let you all know that if I'm not blogging for awhile, you
know why. Hope your 2015 is off to a better start than mine!


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

time for reflection

Here we are, the last day of 2014. A day where we reflect on the year and start thinking
about what we're going to do differently the next year, right? On the last day of the year, I like
to go back through my planner, photographs, and blog and review the year in my mind.
 My year was filled with ups and downs like everyone else...I went through five months
 of physical therapy for a rotator cuff tear, had my first root canal, and was diagnosed with
 and started treatment for primary lymphedema in my arm. But, of course, there was lots of
good stuff to balance that out ~ day trips, weekend getaways, meals out with friends,
thrifting and antiquing with friends and family, craft shows, book sales, dinners and 
holidays and celebrations.

I tried something new: ceramics.

 Two beautiful, healthy babies were born to two of my young friends (welcome
to the world, Landon and Emma!) and a pregnancy was announced by my cousin.
As wonderful as it is to celebrate new life, the unfortunate reality is that we also
experience the end of life. Two of my online friends lost their husbands, a friend lost 
her sister, and an acquaintance passed away in her sleep on Christmas day.

 Tim got a "new" car in March.

After a very snowy winter, we welcomed spring into our home by hosting Easter
dinner and having loved ones around our table.

I met a new blogging friend in May: Cathy from  My 1929 Charmer!  
That's her in the middle, Penny from At Home in English Valley on the left, and me
on the right.

One of my best friends, who has lived less than a mile away from me for many years,
moved almost 50 miles away in June. I'm happy for her because she got a new job -
which was a big promotion - and she moved into a darling townhouse - but I miss
having her close by.

In July, a piece I submitted to Reader's Digest was published in their column,
"Life in These United States". 

 Tim and I went on our first photography adventure together in July when we went
to photograph an abandoned barn and surrounding land.

I visited the Japanese Gardens (Rockford, IL) for the first time this summer.

 And we got the chance to visit two new-to-us places: Madison, Wisconsin for
our 30th anniversary in September...

 and Chenoa, Illinois for a mini family reunion in October.
(Back, L to R: my second cousin, Brenda; my mom; my sister, Laura; my aunt, Suzie;
and my great-uncle, Irvin. Front, L to R: me; my second cousin, Lisa, my second cousin,
Ann; my second cousin, Donald; and my second cousin, Greg.)

So here we are. December 31st. Are you doing anything tonight for New Year's Eve?
I was supposed to go to a friend's house tonight to celebrate with some friends, but
I have a full-blown cold. I'm a coughing, dripping, sneezing, congested mess. So I'll
leave you with this quote that I found in a magazine months ago and had on my phone:

 And one last very important thing ~ thank you for taking the time to read my blog,
for all your lovely comments, and most of all, for your friendship. You all are treasured.

Friday, December 26, 2014

joyous, magical and busy

Well, it's over for another year. All the planning and preparing and then the holidays go
by in a flash. I said a few days before Christmas that I couldn't wait for it to be over, and
 that day is here. But truly ~ I had a wonderful Christmas and loved the time spent with family.
Christmas Eve, we met Brian's father and two of his sisters for dinner at a restaurant. The
 place was packed and service was a little slow due to the busyness, but everyone was in 
such a good mood that it didn't matter.  

 My sisters-in-law surprised me with a Le Creuset dutch oven! My mouth actually
dropped open when I opened this. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that
I love to cook. And since I cook a lot, I appreciate quality cookware. Le Creuset is my
favorite, but let's face it, who can afford it? Not me. The only piece I had before this is
a saute pan - which I won in a blog contest over a year ago. I use the saute pan all
the time and it cooks food beautifully and cleans up so easily. And the pan still looks
barely worn. I can see why this cookware lasts "forever" and can be handed down
generations. This gift - to me - is more precious than gems. Forgive the poor quality
photo...I took it with my phone the minute we got home. As you can see by the clock
in the background, it was almost midnight. Yes, I was excited.

After dinner, we then went on to my aunt and uncle's house. They host Christmas
Eve festivities at their house every other year when their son (my cousin) and his 
wife fly in from Washington. I had forgotten my camera and only took a couple
of photos with my phone, so no pics to post of the goings-on that night. I don't
don't think you would be interested in seeing photos of my aunt demonstrating
 how to use squat toilets in China or us sitting around a dining room table discussing
the stock market and Sweet Brown videos.  

Tim had to work on Christmas Eve until Christmas morning at 1:00 a.m., so he didn't
get home until 3:30 a.m. He immediately headed to the kitchen and started heating up
food in the microwave, so that's what woke me up. I got out of bed and went into the
kitchen to give my boy a hug and talk to him for a bit. Between that and waking up
numerous times to use the bathroom and shoo the cats out of our room, I was thankful
that we could all sleep in on Christmas day. I made a breakfast casserole and the
three of us relaxed in the living room with our food and coffee, opening gifts and
talking and laughing at the cats playing in the wrapping paper and gift bags.

In the afternoon, we went to my sister's house for more festivities.

 What is with teenagers and not wanting to have their picture taken? My boys
did the hands-over-their-face thing too, when they were teens. We had a ton of
wonderful food...appetizers of smoked salmon dip and crackers, guacamole and
tortilla chips, spiced nuts, and party roll-ups, and then Italian beef sandwiches, 
ham, tamales, smoked rib tips and three-layer Christmas jello salad for the meal.
The jello concoction was made by my second cousin, Greg in memory of his mother and
 her sister (which would be Greg's aunt and my grandma) : they used to take turns making
 this dish for family Christmas dinners. Homemade Christmas cookies and my
 mom's homemade French Silk Chocolate pie were on the dessert table. 

With Tim being away at school now, he doesn't get to see his cousins often. And now
that they're older (Tim just turned 24; my nieces are 18 and 16), they all seem to be
much closer. I think when they were younger, the age difference was that Tim thought
of them as pesty little girls (even though he loved them). I love seeing their relationship
evolve, much like mine did with my cousin, Greg.

 Today I actually de-Christmased the entire house! I do this every year on the 26th.
 For me, Christmas is over and 3-1/2 weeks was plenty of time to enjoy the decorations.
I just kept filling up the laundry basket with decorations and Brian made several trips
downstairs to pile everything all over the bar. The hard part will be packing everything
away properly. We ran to Target in the afternoon in hope of scoring gift bags at 50%
off, but we were too late. There was nary a one. We decided on not using traditional
wrapping paper anymore and starting next year, will use brown kraft paper.We found out 
that wrapping paper isn't recyclable! Did you know that? But the brown kraft paper is.
 And it can be decorated in many ways with rubber stamps, doodles and drawings,
 stickers, ribbons, and other embellishments.

However you chose to spend your holiday, I hope it was filled with lots of love.
The best gift of all.