Monday, May 23, 2016

spring weekends

 Spring weekends can't be all yard work, right? Time for another day trip! At first, we considered going to an antique and garden show in Wisconsin, but good thing I looked on Facebook beforehand: There were many posts about how crowded the place was. The police even shut down the main intersection near the farm and were turning people away. So, we chose to go to Evanston - one of our favorite day trip towns. 

We started out with a stop at Hewn. I got a strawberry muffin and Brian got a walnut scone. We sat outside in the sunshine and enjoyed our goodies while people-watching. We also bought a loaf of their homemade bread to bring home. I think it's a good thing we don't live close to this place. We could really get into trouble! 

From their web site..."Everything at Hewn is made in-house, from scratch daily. We source local and seasonal ingredients from small, local farmers when their flavors are at their peak. All of our breads are hand-mixed, hand-shaped and naturally fermented without commercial yeast. Allowing bread to ferment with wild yeast allows a richer, more complex flavor to develop. It also allows the gluten proteins to slowly and naturally break down over time. The starter (levain/sourdough) was initially created by Ellen (owner) several years ago. Our bakers all work to feed and maintain the starter every day.

Each day our bakers mix the dough by hand, turning it every 30 minutes over a four hour period. The dough is then shaped and placed into bannetons, where it rests overnight to rise naturally. In the morning, the bakers fire up the oven and bake the bread. From the start of the mix to the bake, the bread is fermented approximately 20 hours."

We walked around the neighborhood, popping into different shops and stopping to listen to a street band. I loved this planter I saw in front of one of the stores.

Cool street art...

We also visited a farmer's market. Not much going on just yet at farmer's markets here...mostly a lot of plants and spring veggies such as rhubarb and kale. At one booth, I pointed to the rhubarb and mentioned to Brian that "my rhubarb isn't this big and beautiful." The lady in the booth overheard me and remarked, "That's because you don't know what you're doing, my dear." Quite presumptuous, don't you think? Needless to say, I didn't buy anything from Rude Rhubarb Lady. ;-) I did buy a pound of fingerling potatoes from another vendor, which I roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper last night. Then I tossed them with some of my fresh herbs. We agreed that they were the best potatoes we'd ever had. Garden-fresh makes all the difference. I also bought beef bones from another organic farmer so that I can make bone broth. 

We saw this sign on the side of the library and loved it. We talked about how kids merely go through Google and click on links to do research nowadays. And how we used to have to go to the library, use the card catalog (remember those?) to look for appropriate books and periodicals, then look through and read said material. This banner is part of a project from Libraries Transform if you're interested in reading more about the Libraries Transform campaign.

I've mentioned before about Evanston that one of the many things I love about this town is the gorgeous houses. This one is the Oscar Mayer mansion - currently undergoing renovation.

Our last stop of the day was the lakefront. This has always been one of my favorite views looking toward Chicago. See the tiny building on the far right? That's the John Hancock Center

We spread out a blanket in the grass area of the park in front of the lake. We brought our books with us, too ~ after all, our intention was to relax and read. Well, intentions are just that. I think my body wanted to nap off the Indian cuisine we had for lunch. ;-)

It was back to the yard work and gardening on Sunday and most of the day today, too. We've been blessed with beautiful weather, but looks like rain is moving in for the rest of the week. Catch you later with some garden updates! 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

sunshine thursday

 Today was one of those perfect spring days that you wish would last forever: brilliant sunshine, nary a cloud in the sky, and topping 70 degrees F. I made another trip to the garden center, this time picking up herbs (two varieties of basil, tarragon, parsley, dill and lavender), zinnias, petunias and dianthus. I got everything planted in pots except the lavender and tarragon - those will go in the backyard herb garden - and the zinnias. Not sure where I want them yet. There is still so much gardening and yard work to do! I don't mind though - I love working outside in the nice weather. I've waited all winter for this.

I cut some lilacs off my lilac bush and brought them inside to put in little vases. I didn't do so earlier because their intense fragrance makes my allergies go insane. Now that they're fading (makes me sad that they don't last long), they're not as fragrant.

 I had a bouquet of yellow flowers from Trader Joes, so I divided them up and used some on top of the secretary desk in the living room...

and in a little blue bottle of top of a stack of books.

More yellow flowers went on the kitchen table...

and on top of a cake plate near the kitchen window.

The cats were in all their glory this morning with the sunbeam and catnip.

 Even as the sun sets, my gardening chores are done, and the catnip is put away, Zippo finds the sliver of the setting sun on my desk that faces the backyard.

Hope you're enjoying flowers and sunbeams, too!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

he did it!

This past Saturday was the big day: Tim's graduation from college!

It was so exciting to be sitting in this stadium, anticipating all the graduates soon to be marching in and filling those empty seats. It seemed not too long ago that I was sitting in the bleachers of Tim's high school, heart thumping with excitement and pride that my youngest son was graduating and would be going on to college. 

In my post on May 9th, I had said that Tim overcame some major life obstacles in pursuing his degree and that I would talk about it after his graduation ceremony. First and foremost was his brother's death in September 2009. Tim was in community college when Phil passed away. Tim wanted to quit school. He didn't know how he was going to go on. After a lot of discussion and Tim's own perseverance, he stayed in school. It took him four years to complete community college due to a host of factors, but he never gave up.

During the few years Tim was away at university, he experienced job loss; major car troubles; spraining his ankle twice - the second time so severe that he ended up in a "boot"; a severe case of tinnitus; and...a burglary! I don't want to give too many personal details on that, but long story short, the front door on his rental house was not locked, Tim was not home, and the burglar broke into his bedroom (his bedroom door was locked) and stole his TV, his PS3 game station (which wasn't worth much but was very sentimental - it had been Phil's), and worst of all, his beautiful camera and all the contents in his camera bag: lenses, memory cards, hard drive with all his photos, and some other very expensive photography equipment. We are very thankful Tim was not hurt and that his professor was understanding and worked with him so that he could finish his projects and graduate on time.

To say that I'm proud of my son for what he has achieved - a BFA in Photography - is an understatement. I know that he can accomplish anything he puts his mind to, even in the face of adversity. As I have said to Tim since he was little, "The world is your oyster and you are the pearl."

I know that Phil would've been very proud of his brother, too.

Friday, May 13, 2016

food with friends: the art of simple gatherings ~ a review

This cookbook has a lovely premise: celebrating life with friends and/or family around your table and not expecting perfection, just love and fun. 

The author, Leela Cyd is a photographer for Food and Wine, Sweet Paul, The New York Times and Kinfolk, and a contributor to the kitchn

While the book is well-written and filled with beautiful photography, most of the recipes are a little obscure for the average home cook.

 I love to cook and am not a stranger to trying new recipes and even using new-to-me ingredients, but recipes with ingredients such as bee pollen, matcha powder, fresh curry leaves, chickpea flour, oat groats and edible flowers make me quickly turn the page, looking for a recipe with ingredients that I know are easily found. Thus said, there are some doable recipes in this book. Steel-Cut Oats With Toppings sounds simple; so does Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seed Clusters, Assorted Spa Waters, Black and White Cookies, Spice-Roasted Chickpeas and Toasted Nuts with Lemon, Thyme and Chili.

I received Food With Friends - That Art of Simple Gatherings from Blogging for Books for my honest, personal opinion review.

Monday, May 9, 2016

joy, pride, sorrow ~ all part of weekend celebrations

What a joyous occasion we celebrated Saturday evening: Tim's BFA Art Show!

Tim had three of his photography pieces in the show. Here's his artist statement.

Tim had framed his work with glass, so I apologize for the glare. I wish you could see these pieces in person. My phone camera doesn't even begin to capture the beauty in his amazing work.

To say that I am proud of my son is an understatement. He is talented, smart, hard-working, and most of all, a truly genuine, loving young man. He has overcome some major life obstacles in pursuing his degree. I'll talk more about that next week after his graduation ceremony.

And then Sunday was Mother's Day. I have mixed emotions about this day. While I am grateful to still have my mother on this earth, and I'm a mother myself, Mother's Day is always hard for those of us who have lost a child.

I'm not a big fan of these kinds of holidays anyway. I think they put a lot of pressure and expectation on both sides. 

Yesterday afternoon, out of the blue, I received a private message from a friend in Canada whom I rarely speak to. She's had a messy life and isn't online much. But somehow - on Mother's Day - she thought of me. And took the time to send me a private message to tell me so. I was so touched. She was the only one - besides one of my best friends - that took the time and effort to contact me yesterday.

Backing up a little, on Friday Brian had said that he wanted to go out and pick up a little something for me for Mother's Day. Knowing the chain stores in this area, I told him to please not waste his money on some last-minute piece of cheap jewelry from one of those places. He asked why not and I told him things like that don't mean anything to me. (There's the expectations thing on the other know that their wife and/or mother expect a gift, so they think going out at the last minute and buying something frivolous gives them brownie points.) I hinted that I liked plants and flowers. We'd been talking about sprucing up the area in front of our neighbor's fence - as talked about in my May 2nd post, in case you missed it. A couple of you had suggested a trellis and I had nixed that idea at first because I thought a trellis would have to lean against our neighbor's fence. 

Brian called me from the garden center and asked how I'd like a trellis for the fence area! I laughed and told him a couple of my blogger friends had suggested that. He said he found a metal trellis that was curved. It wouldn't have to lean against the fence. He also picked out a couple of clematis plants. 

I hope these plants do well. I tried growing clematis years ago and it died. This area gets at least six hours of sun every day, plus I've been watering. Rain is moving in tonight and into tomorrow, so no watering from me will be needed.

On Saturday evening before Tim's art show, the three of us met up for dinner with my mom, sister and brother-in-law. I gave my mom her Mother's Day gift then, since I wasn't seeing her on Sunday. Like me, Mom loves succulents and pretty dishes and pottery for use as planters. So I made her a pretty arrangement.

 I lucked out in finding the vintage planter in my newest favorite shop. 

A weekend full of emotions, high and low. Today's a new day and I'm taking time to breathe and find peace in the stillness after the flurry of weekend activity. How about you?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

{almost} a new headboard and enjoying the sunshine

Our master bedroom has been a work-in-progress for about a year now. I'm always amazed at people who can put a room completely together within weeks or even a couple of months. How does one choose paint colors, flooring, curtains, blinds, furniture, lamps, wall art and bedding that quickly?! Not to mention the expense.

 First came painting the walls a light gray, then old carpeting ripped out and hardwood flooring put in. Along came a new mattress and curtains. Next order of business was a new headboard, but easier said than done. I knew I either wanted an upholstered headboard or something creative, such as reclaimed wood or a vintage iron piece. The search in stores and online began, but no luck until recently.

 I finally found a headboard I liked and at a decent price, too. I ordered it from amazon and was thrilled to see it set up in our bedroom. (Obviously, Zippo didn't care.)

I like the classic look, how the color (taupe) picks up the same in the rug, and how the texture and slightly curved top bring a little softness to the room. 
However, this pretty piece has to go back. The metal legs that extend from the headboard have slots in them that are supposed to line up with the slots in the bed frame so they can be attached to each other. Our new mattress is very deep ~ and so the slots don't match up. This headboard is actually supposed to be raised up a little, as you can probably tell from this angled photo. For now, the headboard is merely propped up against the wall with the bed pushed against it so it doesn't move. We have to package the headboard back up and return it to amazon. So disappointing.

 On a cheerier note, the sun came out today, which meant more time in the yard pulling weeds, raking, sweeping, cleaning patio furniture, and taking time to appreciate the beauty of spring.

The lilacs are this close to bursting open! Funny thing is, when they do, the flowers are so light-colored, they're almost white. 

The afternoon sun radiates through the back window and across my desk, where the cats love to lie in the sunbeam and watch me through the window.

 "Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun"
~ Kahlil Gibran

Sharing with Art and Sand - Share Your Cup
and At Home With Jemma - Thoughts of Home on Thursday.

Monday, May 2, 2016

this and that


The sun finally came out today after an entire week of nothing but gray skies, rain showers, and temps only in the 40's. What a difference the sun makes for one's energy and attitude! I got a lot accomplished today, both inside and out.

The latest new blooms in my yard are these tiny beauties on top of the dead nettle ground cover. 

 Since the sun was out today, I was able to get some more planting done. I saved this hanging planter from last year and filled it with pansies.

 Several varieties of coleus and gerbera daisies went into this large container - which was moved into the garage tonight. Nights are still cold here!

And, I planted two containers of lettuces.

One area I want to work on improving this year is the north side of the house. See the shady area against the side of the house? We had bushes planted there and they died a couple of years ago. I'm assuming because this area doesn't get a lot of sun. I have to do some reading and research for what would do well in this area and perhaps ask for some suggestions from the experts at the garden center. 

The window you see in the photo is our bedroom window. Our view from that window is our neighbor's ugly fence. I remember Brenda from Cozy Little House saying that you should always have a pretty view out your windows. And, if you don't have a pretty view, then try to do something about it. I think I will dig up the bamboo (which I didn't know was invasive) in the butterfly garden and put in a big pot and then flank that with pots of tomatoes.
Later edit: You might notice that my lawn has dandelions. It also has wild violets and Creeping Charlie. That's because we don't use chemicals on our lawn or on any of our plants. It's not worth the health risks to ourselves, our pets or wildlife to have a weed-free lawn. Not to mention that we also have a private well, so any chemicals put on our lawn would leach down into the ground and into our well water. That's the water we drink and bathe in. No, thank you.

On Saturday when it was pouring rain and we were running errands, we ducked into one of my favorite antique shops. I couldn't resist this curved ceramic Siamese cat. It's marked on the back: @Mann. I can't find anything online about it. Anyone?

I also found this blue Red Wing piece to add to my vintage pottery collection. I told hubby that I blame Claudia for my newest obsession. ;-) I never really noticed vintage pottery or appreciated it until I started seeing photos and reading about it on Claudia's blog. Oh well, hubby is probably glad I'm not collecting birds anymore. Or owls. Or cloches. My interests come and go over the years.

Thanks for your visit ~ have a lovely week!