Monday, August 22, 2016

on the homefront ~ from morning 'til evening

The past couple of days here have been picture-perfect. Temps are in the 70's, the humidity is low and sunshine abounds.

 It's delightful to turn off the AC and open the windows to feel the fresh air. The kitties concur.

 My front door, which faces east, opens right into the living room so there's always always a nice sun puddle on the floor in the morning. With the cool breeze coming in through the front door, too ~ just heavenly.

When you walk in the front door into the living room, there's a little foyer-like area. I got a new console table from Target a few weeks ago. The original console table we had there was dark brown - and now that's in our bedroom with a TV on top of it. Then, I was using my grandma's antique secretary desk, but it didn't really fit the space. It was too tall and not wide enough. This new table fits the space perfectly, brightens up the area, and I like the empty space underneath (the original dark brown console table had shelving underneath). Our leather ottomans - which open for storage - fit perfectly underneath this table.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, things are a bit more chaotic. When the husband works an overnight shift and thus is sleeping during the day, I lose the use of our bed as my spot for folding laundry. So, the kitchen table does double-duty as a folding spot. Oops, I see a kitty tail underneath one of the kitchen chairs! Somehow, a cat always makes it into most of my photos. Good thing I only have three. I met a lady in my yoga class last week who has 11. Not going there so don't even say it. ;-)

And now with Tim being home, it seems like there's three extra people in the house instead of just one. I think I got too used to be an empty nester after three years. I'm back to making big batches of food to keep in the fridge for hungry men. With the cooler weather, yesterday was a perfect time to make a pot of veggie-beef soup. I don't follow a recipe ~ I just make things up as I go along. I started out by lightly sauteeing chopped up onion, carrots, celery and garlic - just enough to bring out the flavors. Then I added a pound of organic, grass-fed ground beef. Browned that up with the veggies, drained the grease, then added four cups of organic beef broth, two cups of organic vegetable broth, and a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes.  Let that simmer for a few minutes, then in went the diced zucchini, green beans, and frozen corn. Spices were next - some Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Blend, freshly ground pepper, and Italian seasoning. Brought this up to a boil and added 1/2 cup ditalini pasta. Let simmer for eight minutes - and done!

Today I made a batch of corn muffins. A perfect accompaniment to the soup.

With so much cooking going on (Tim does a lot of his own, too), the dishwasher usually goes twice a day now. I relish the times the kitchen is finally clean ~ which doesn't last long ~ and the table is clear of laundry. ;-)

I always love to have fresh flowers around the house and my gardens have been supplying most of them, but when I saw a bunch of chamomile flowers at Trader Joe's, I couldn't resist. They look like miniature daisies, don't they?

The thing is, these cut flowers don't last very long. Interestingly enough, at the beginning of summer I had a pot of chamomile flowers growing and the entire plant died off within less than two months. I'm assuming it's just a delicate plant. 

The sun is setting noticeably earlier these days - about 7:40. 

This late summer sun casts the most beautiful glow down the patio on onto the Joe Pye Weed...

which the bees love.

Savoring every moment of these last summer days and nights.

Have a beautiful week!

Monday, August 15, 2016

birthday fun ~ and a tour of gorgeous houses

 Just one thing I love about summer is being out and about, enjoying the beautiful weather and dining outdoors. Last Wednesday, the 10th of August was my birthday. Me and my mom celebrated the weekend before that with lunch at a lovely restaurant on a nearby lake. (Ignore my stringy, limp hair - the humidity does a number on my tresses!) Aren't those big, puffy clouds fantastic? 

On the actual day of my birthday, Brian and I went to a Coach outlet store, as my present from he and my mom was a new purse! I picked out a classic black purse that can be carried with short handles or worn as a crossbody. I needed a new black purse and I've been a fan of Coach since I was a teenager, as they've always been quality handbags that last for many years.

 I chose a Thai restaurant for my birthday dinner - the ending to a perfect day.

This past weekend, we went to our happy place - Evanston. We hit our favorite vintage store, had lunch at a fantastic Mediterranean restaurant and took a walk in the park along Lake Michigan.

 Right next to the park is a block of multi-million dollar homes on the lake. I snapped a few pictures to share.

 Loved the terra cotta roof on this house that was under construction.

Isn't the house itself gorgeous? Wonder what's in that tower with the three windows in front?

Several of the homes were covered in ivy, but very neatly trimmed around the windows. Every yard was professionally manicured. 

Something we noticed was there wasn't a soul in sight. No one out in their yard, no kids playing, no one working in their garage. Maybe they all hang out in their back yards because it's more private? 

 Love the entrance to this house ~ and check out the unique stone driveway to the right.

Close-up of the driveway.

This was my favorite house on our walk, though we were trying to figure out why an air conditioning unit was on the roof! (See the block on the top left?)

 I zoomed in for a close-up of what looks like a four season room on the front of the house...

Even the entrance to this home is enchanting. 

We then headed back to our humble home (we definitely don't have a manicured lawn and that's just fine with us - we both actually like yard work!) and to watch our little town's annual fireworks over the lake. We avoid the massive crowds and watch them from our back yard.

Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

surrounded by beauty

Yesterday morning was sunny with low humidity, so I took a lovely walk in my neighborhood. The rest of this week is going to be hot and humid, so I take advantage of these cooler days outside whenever I can.

I enjoy looking at other people's pretty gardens as I pass by. Doesn't even feel like exercise when there's so much beauty to take in. And the mornings are so peaceful with most people at work ~ no traffic, just the sweet song of birds and hum of cicadas. I love small town living.

The tall, colorful zinnias in this neighbor's front yard always make me smile when I pass by. I must plant these next year! 

Now this is a creative idea to do with a tree stump, don't you think?

My walk also took me down to the lake. This is where my boys swam and fished when they were growing up, and is home to many geese and swans.

Sunsets on the lake are pretty spectacular, too. Sometimes, Brian and I walk down to the lake in the evening to just sit on the bench and watch the sunset. This photo was taken just a few weeks ago.

Back at home, my own butterfly garden is still thriving in the August heat.

I spied another swallowtail fluttering around yesterday afternoon, but it didn't stop long enough for me to get a close-up photo.

The Black-eyed Susans are at their peak right now ~ aren't they so pretty and cheery? I wish they'd last longer.

Another thing I love about living in a small town is that I can walk down the street and cut wildflowers from the side of the road.

I'm relishing these last few weeks of summer and lush beauty in my surroundings, as it certainly doesn't last long around here. Happy Wednesday, dear friends.

Friday, August 5, 2016

hot weather soups ~ gazpacho and summer corn chowder

I know most people think of soup as being a fall and winter dish, but the right kind of soup can be just as appealing, delicious and healthy in the summer, too.

In my last post, I had shown a photo of my bowl of gazpacho. Several people asked if I would post the recipe, so here it is, along with another wonderful summer soup. I hope you will give them a try! Both of them are vegetarian/vegan, too.

2 med cucumbers, peeled & seeded (easiest to do this with English cucumbers)
2 lbs ripe tomatoes, seeded & chopped
 (I only half-heartedly scrape some of the seeds out - too much needless work)
1/2 med red pepper, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 T olive oil
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Toppings: Fresh corn kernels cut from cob, avocado, red onion, fresh basil

Cut one cucumber into 1/4" dice; cut the other cucumber into chunks.
In blender, in two batches, puree tomatoes, red pepper, garlic, lemon juice, oil, salt, black pepper, cucumber chunks, and 1/2 cup water.
Pour tomato mixture into large bowl; stir in diced cucumber. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled and flavors "marry" - at least three hours, but preferably overnight.
To serve, top soup with corn, avocado, red onion and fresh basil

I'm sure you're familiar with corn chowder...that creamy, hearty concoction of corn, potatoes and carrots. Warms you up on a winter day when you're chilled to the bone. Well, this is a summer corn chowder - no cream or cheese. The key to the deliciousness is that you simmer corn cobs in the vegetable broth. It makes the broth unbelievably flavorful and even a little sweet. You can find the recipe here

Here's to good eating and to your health! 
Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

hello august

How did August get here so quickly? For those of us in the northern part of the US, summer just doesn't last long enough. 

I'm welcoming this last complete month of summer by saying hello to a certain young man and all his stuff moving back home after being away at school for three years.

It's only been a few days and we're all learning to adjust (more bodies in the house, more stuff, more dishes to wash, different attitudes and schedules) but so far, so good. I had to smile when I went to do yoga in my office and found Tim's bulletin board and two pieces of artwork in this room...he still needs to hang them up in his bedroom and didn't have enough floor space yet in his own room to lay these pieces down. At least he was neat about it! I simply laid my yoga mat on an angle and did my practice that way. A little aggravating, yes, but not worth making a fuss about.

Hello beautiful and bountiful butterfly garden...

and hello to this gorgeous swallowtail that visited the butterfly garden today.

Hello to tomato plants that are bursting forth with red and yellow cherry tomatoes.

Hello to making gazpacho from just-picked tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet corn from the farmstand down the road.

Hello to summer family gatherings (that's hubby in back, on the left in the red striped shirt and me next to him with the blonde hair and glasses).

Hello to my little self 47 years ago today when I was a flower girl in my Aunt Barb's wedding. (Aunt Barb is the woman in front of me in the yellow shirt in the above photo.)

Hello to August being my birthday month.

Hello to warm summer evenings on the patio.

Hello to summer sunsets.

What are you saying hello to this month?

Sharing with Thoughts of Home on Thursday.