Tuesday, September 19, 2017

seasons changing

Last week, it was cool enough where I was thinking fall foods ~ chili, soup, squash. Have you ever had delicata squash? It looks like this:

It's simple to prepare, and so delicious. Brian and I ate this entire pan in one sitting. Scrub the squash, then poke holes all over it with a fork, put in the microwave on high for two minutes to soften up enough to slice, then let it cool down. Slice into rings and place on a baking sheet. Some of the rings will have some pulp and seeds, but they're easy to scrape out with a spoon. In a small bowl, combine extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper & fresh chopped rosemary. Use a pastry brush to brush the infused oil on top of the squash rings. Bake at 400 degrees F. for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Eat! Yes, you can eat the skin, too. This squash is high in fiber and iron, vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and a host of other vitamins.

I know my time with fresh tomatoes is limited, so I've been running up to the local farm stand a couple of times a week and buying a ton of tomatoes. I cut them up and roast them with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, let them cool down, and then put them in food storage bags. Easy-peasy and will be so wonderful to have fresh tomatoes in my homemade soups, stew, chili, and spaghetti sauce this winter.

Now we're back to warm weather. It's been 80+ the past few days and will climb to 91 by Friday. That's how the weather goes here when seasons are changing. The color change has started and driving down the roads I've noticed the landscaping seems to be bathed in a soft golden glow. We desperately need rain though ~ it's so dry. My yard is littered with crunchy leaves.

Sunsets have been anywhere from gentle and soft...

to strong and fiery.

 I know fall doesn't truly start for a couple more days and I hate pushing seasons (except for winter 😛), but I brought the fall stuff out a few days ago and started playing around with decor. Just going for a transitioning look; nothing Autumn Overkill. This is just the emptying of the storage box to see what I had. I didn't use much and even donated some of it.

"By all these lovely tokens September days are here, with summer's best of weather and autumn's best of cheer." ~ Helen Hunt Jackson

Saturday, September 16, 2017

wedding day x 33

Thirty-three years ago yesterday, just one month after I turned 22, I said "I do" to Brian.

We were so young!

Weren't my parents a beautiful couple? Their 56th wedding anniversary would've been today. My dad passed away almost 19 years ago. They only had 37 years together. Not that much longer than Brian and I have been married.

And this is Brian's parents. His mom had cancer and was near the end. She held on for our wedding. I love the way Brian's dad is holding on to her arm so gently and looking at her with love and concern. She passed away just six weeks after our wedding. So Brian's parents only had 26 years together. Now that I'm in my 50's and have been married 33 years, I realize how short time together really is. 


We usually go on an overnight trip for our anniversary, but we stayed home this year due to two of our cats being on medication. Yes, Tim could've taken care of the cats, but his schedule is too erratic, so we couldn't rely on him. It was fine though ~ we don't mind staying at home. We always say, "As long as we're together." We did go out to a nice dinner to celebrate. We were going to go out to a movie afterwards, but the one we wanted to see (Brad's Status) wasn't playing in any of the nearby theaters. Because we're such party animals, we instead stopped at some stores on the way home.

We're in the market for a new couch, but haven't done much looking yet. We went into Crate and Barrel to look around and I really liked this couch. It was firm and comfortable, the slipcovers are washable, and it's only 83" long instead of your standard 90". That would give us more room on either side of the couch, which is a plus for us since our living room is small. A 90" couch is a three-seater, but in reality, who sits three people to a couch? This 83" sofa is a two-seater, but is very generous. And still long enough where one could lay down on it to read or take a nap.

I was looking at this photo and realized how wrinkled the material gets. Do I want this ultra-casual look in my living room, or do I want more tailored? Hmm. Decisions, decisions. Well, like I said, we've just started looking, so we have a long way to go.

As long as I get to spend at least another 33 years with this guy, it's all good.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

a gentler way to start your day

I haven't posted since last week because I've had a lot on my mind. Between my own busyness and happenings and then all the tragedy going on in the world at once ~ Hurricane Harvey, the earthquake in Mexico, and now Hurricane Irma ~ I've felt unsettled. As an introvert and someone who also has anxiety, I tend to ruminate and over-think things. So when I'm feeling like the world is simply too much, I purposely try and create more calmness and peace in my life.

 During this time I was scrolling through Instagram and Jennifer at The Cottage Nest wrote that she was making time to start her day off on a positive, technology free note. She said, "there's stretching, gratitude journaling, encouraging reading and aromatherapy all before I even roll out of bed - a much gentler way to begin my days."

Interestingly enough, I had been thinking along the same lines for awhile now - but not taking action. Seeing Jennifer's post gave me the little push that I needed. While I do have to get out of bed right away when I wake up as I'm the one who feeds the cats, I've first been taking a minute to at least stretch my body before I start opening the blinds around the house and heading to the kitchen.

My morning routine after feeding the cats and making coffee was that I opened the front door to let the sun in (a good thing!), but then opened my laptop and read my email and looked through social media. (By the way, that's a cat toy in the sunbeam, not a dead mouse. 😉)

The past few days instead of turning on my laptop, I've been reading something light and positive. Whether you choose to read poetry, an uplifting book, your Bible, etc., it sure beats starting out your day being bombarded by email and social media. Sometimes I light a grapefruit-scented candle that I have on my coffee table.

I then roll out my yoga mat in the sunbeam (the cats get miffed - they love the morning sunbeam, too!) and do gentle stretches for my back and knee and a few rounds of sun salutations. 

Of course, I'm not able to do this slow, gentle routine every morning. Sometimes there's appointments where I need to rush and get out the door. Maybe you work outside the home and are also rushed with your morning routine. However, anyone (even me - who hates getting up any earlier than I have to) can get up just a mere five minutes earlier and at least stretch a little and then maybe sit and be still and set some positive affirmations for the day.

I have found that this slower paced, gentle way of starting the day has already made a difference in my mood and starts my day off on a positive note. 


Once you've gently started your day and are ready for breakfast, it's important to fuel your body with something healthy. Your body has fasted 10-12+ hours, so breakfast is a must. Most mornings, my breakfast is a nutritious smoothie, which only takes a couple of minutes to make. Simply layer in the blender: water or milk (I use Silk Almond-Coconut milk), frozen fruit (I like a berry blend), a banana (or 1/2 avocado), a few fresh strawberries or small handful of blueberries or raspberries, a sprinkling of turmeric, 1 T. of hemp hearts, a big spoon of plain Greek yogurt (don't use the flavored yogurts which are loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners), and a big handful of baby spinach. Use organic ingredients with the fruits, veggies and cow's milk, if that's what you're using for liquid.

Drink up! 

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

How do you start your day? 
Do you need to be kinder and gentler with yourself? 
What ideas would work for you?

Monday, September 4, 2017

labor day weekend

This long weekend included a little bit of everything.

Having lunch on the deck of a local restaurant...

Antique shopping...

Cleaning out our very messy and dirty garage...

Now it's decluttered, organized and clean...
(Well, as clean as a garage can get.)

A simple and delicious pasta salad...dressed it with extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, a teeny bit of cane sugar (all organic), Dijon mustard, fresh herbs, pink Himalayan salt, and freshly ground pepper. It was a perfect side dish for grilled burgers. Leftover pasta salad can be tossed with Wild Planet tuna the next day for a healthy lunch...

And baking strawberry oatmeal muffins. I added some bittersweet chocolate chips to some of them. And yes, some of the muffins are wearing spring tulip wrappers. Use what you have left in the cabinet, right? I haven't baked muffins in a long time. You can find the recipe here

What were you up to on this Labor Day weekend?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

overdose awareness day

August 31st: Today is Overdose Awareness Day. 
Please take a few minutes to say a prayer for those struggling with the disease of addiction, and for the families, like myself and my family, who have lost a child/brother due to addiction/OD. We have to end the stigma, shame and judgment and choose to educate instead. Don't ever think it couldn't happen to your child or anyone in your family. Ignorance and denial are the enemies of this disease. 

Did you know the opioid crisis is so bad, it's going to be declared as a National Emergency? Drug OD's are now the leading cause of death under 50. See here for more info and statistics:

Short Answers to Hard Questions about the Opioid Crisis

RIP, my precious son, Philip Thomas Riley. If love could've saved you, you would've lived forever.

Friday, August 25, 2017

harvesting tomatoes

What's growing in your garden right now? Zucchini? Tomatoes? Green beans? Blueberries or apples? Here in northern Illinois, at least in my backyard, it's tomatoes.

As a member of the Wayfair Homemaker program, I have been compensated for this post. All ideas and  opinions are completely my own.

We planted four cherry tomato plants this year: two red and two yellow. I've been picking tomatoes every day this month. But let's face it ~ there's only so many raw tomatoes you can eat, right?

What I like to do with an overabundance of fresh tomatoes is to roast them. Roasting brings out their natural sweetness and there's so many ways you can use these summer gems...top a sandwich, burger or grilled chicken; toss in salads; use in soups and stews; even on grilled cheese. You can use them right away, refrigerate for up to three days, or freeze for up to a year. To roast, I simply put the tomatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle with 1T of extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with freshly grated pepper and garlic salt. (Have you tried this garlic salt from Trader Joe's? It comes in its own little grinder. This stuff is amazing! I use it on everything.) If you're not into garlic salt, I don't know you use regular salt. I then incorporate all the ingredients by using my gloved hand to gently rub the oil and spices over all the tomatoes.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Once the oven is ready, put the pan of tomatoes in and roast for 15-20 minutes.

This is what the tomatoes should look like when you pull them out of the oven. Let them cool down until you're ready to incorporate them into a recipe or refrigerate or freeze them.

I'm making caprese salad, but I put a little twist on the classic recipe by using roasted tomatoes instead of fresh ones. I also have a surprise ingredient for even more of a switch...

Fresh mozzarella balls, fresh basil, and the surprise ingredient - kalamata olives.

Unfortunately, my late summer harvest does not include basil. This is how pitiful my supply looks right now. That's why I had to buy the packaged stuff at the store.

I'll include the exact recipe at the end of this post, but just as a guideline, cut the mozzarella balls and kalamata olives in half, chop the fresh basil, and put in a pretty bowl.

Gently add the roasted tomatoes and sprinkle with more freshly ground pepper.
That's it! This caprese salad doesn't need a dressing since the tomatoes were roasted with olive oil and seasonings. It incorporates into the entire salad. Yum!

I think this salad is so appealing with the yellow and red tomatoes, ribbons of fresh basil, and the addition of kalamata olives. And since it's quick and easy to make, it's perfect for a light lunch, as a side dish for dinner, or to take to a summer potluck. 

3-1/2 cups fresh grape tomatoes (a combination of red and yellow looks best)
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Freshly ground garlic salt, to taste (or regular salt)
1 - 8 oz. container whole milk fresh mozzarella (ciliegine), drained and cut in half
1/3 cup kalamata olives, drained and cut in half
Fresh basil, cut into fine ribbons, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 

Place tomatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the pepper and garlic salt and using a gloved hand, gently incorporate the oil and spices over every tomato. Roast tomatoes in oven for 15-20 min. Let cool.

In a medium-sized bowl, place the halved mozzarella balls, the halved kalamata olives, and the fresh basil. Add the cooled roasted tomatoes and gently stir.

If you should need a pretty serving bowl for your caprese salad, may I suggest one of these...anything from classy to casual to whimsical:

Torcello Glass Serving Bowl

Whatever's growing in your garden ~ or whether you've been getting your late summer harvest veggies at a farmer's market ~ I hope you're enjoying the fresh bounty that this season has to offer.