Wednesday, June 21, 2017

the first day of summer, self-care, and a vintage plant stand

 We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day for the first day of summer. Temps were in the 70's F with low humidity. I was carless today - Tim had to borrow my car to go to work, as his car was in the shop. Normally I hate being without a car as there's rarely a day I'm not running out somewhere, whether it be errands or physical therapy. I also don't like the feeling of being without a car at my disposal - just in case of an emergency or I have a hankering to go somewhere. However, today being carless turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I got so much done both inside the house and out in the yard.

I did some light housework and laundry, then spent two hours outside thoroughly cleaning the patio, repotting some plants, spray painting a few decor items, and cleaning out a small area in the garage.

But, best of all, I took the time for some self-care. I did my PT exercises and light yoga and then I actually got on my bike for the first time since my knee surgery. I could've rode sooner - it wasn't a physical thing - but I've either been off and running somewhere, or the weather was too hot. Unfortunately, I think there's something wrong with the gears on the bike, so I'm going to have Brian take a look at it. If he can't figure it out, it's going into the bike shop. I want to make bike riding a regular thing since it's good for my knee.

After all that sweaty work, I took a bath, shaved my legs, and painted my toenails. Then
I had my late morning smoothie on the front porch while reading Denise Levertov poetry. Now that was relaxing. I need to take the time to do things like that more often. I'm a very high-energy person and always doing something. That's a good thing in its own way - I mean, I'm glad I have a lot of energy most days - but as someone who also has high anxiety, I have to remember that it's also good to take a little time to relax and do something calming.

In other news, this past weekend I stopped by a favorite antique shop to see what kind of outdoor goodies they had. 

For a little shop, I sure wasn't disappointed. I was looking around, liking what I saw but nothing really striking me as "have to have for my yard".


All of a sudden, I saw this plant stand. I knew it would be perfect for my patio. I had been looking for a metal plant stand all season, but with no luck. For several years, I was using a wicker shelving unit that I got a long time ago at a thrift store. From being exposed to the elements all those years, it was peeling and worn, with the bottom shelf falling apart. 

Here's the plant stand in its new home - on my patio. 
I think it's just perfect. :-)

Happy Summer!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

slice of life mid-june

Most every morning, especially when the weather is hot, my breakfast is a nutritious, filling and delicious smoothie. I simply throw these ingredients into the blender in this order: enough Silk Unsweetened Almond-Coconut milk just to cover the blades, about a cup of organic frozen mixed fruit, a banana, a dollop of unsweetened plain Greek yogurt, a tablespoon of hemp hearts, a sprinkling of turmeric, and a handful of organic baby spinach. Takes only a few minutes to make and you could even pour this into a portable drink container to take in your car if you're going to work or an appointment, etc. in the morning. You can easily mix this up with different fruits, kale instead of spinach, add some flaxseed meal instead of hemp hearts (or, use both), or even put in a little unsweetened organic coconut for a tropical taste.

A little something new...a vintage find from last week ~
the yellow sifter in the middle of the china cabinet.

We attended the wedding of my friend's daughter last weekend. They made their own table decorations, which I thought were really pretty.

The wedding and reception was held at a nearby venue right on this gorgeous lake. One thing I love about the area I live is the many lakes.

This ginger kitty had been hanging around our house the past few weeks, driving my cats nuts when they saw him through the windows. I think he belongs to someone on the street in back of us, because he'd always run through the arborvitaes in the back yard to get to the houses behind us. With the weather being in the 90's this past week, I haven't seen him, so I hope that means the owners are keeping him inside. Which they should be doing all the time, anyway. 

All my plants are really taking off...
I can't believe how huge this red-veined sorrel got since last year. It was just a tiny plant when I bought it. It's also flowering now, which is kind of pretty. I'm not sure whether to leave it like this, or if I should cut this growth off. If it means those little buds are going to fall off and self-seed, then I suppose I should cut them. 

My Kentucky Pole Bean plant is growing about an inch every day now! I'm sure it won't be long before the pods start forming on the vines. You might recall from a previous post, that this "trellis" is actually my boy's crib springs. :-)

The cherry tomato plants are growing like crazy now, too.

And, the hostas! We have them all around our house, but this one astounds me every year with how huge it is. We've even divided it several times already.

Purple Salvia at its peak...

The tiger lilies in our front ditch have just started to bloom. They're such a pretty filler for an unsightly area, but once the blooms fade, the plant itself isn't far behind and then they look scrappy. That's the downfall to tiger lilies, but oh well. We enjoy them while they last.

Guess what else is in bloom now? Mulberries! Our mean next door neighbor has two huge mulberry trees on her property, one of which hangs directly over the south side of our house. That's where we have a lot of nice perennials, potted plants, and the patio. We just had her trees trimmed last month (and that was an ugly, horrendous story in itself) but still, these disgusting mulberries drop all over our patio. And the patio furniture. And all over the perennial beds. And into plant pots. They stink and attract flies. So, every day I'm out there sweeping up these mushy berries. I also had to move the two rocking chairs up against the house to protect them from the mulberries. I'd also love to get an outdoor rug for the patio, but it would get ruined.

Happy weekend ~ and happy almost-summer!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

a beautiful start to june

Happy June! We are having the most glorious weather here in northern Illinois. After a very rainy May, we've had nothing but sunshine and pleasant temps (OK, except for 90 degrees this past weekend) for well over a week. And this week looks to be the same up until the weekend, when again, temps are expected to be in the low 90's. Too soon for that kind of heat. Anyway, I've been spending a lot of time outdoors: Planting more flowers, weeding, trimming bushes, and finally enjoying the patio.

I'm sure most of you are familiar with Susan Branch - artist and author in the field of Home Arts. I have her small calendar hanging on my bulletin board and love turning the page to a new month just to see the pretty artwork.


Columbine thrives in the low humidity and gentle warmth. It's the first thing to bloom in my butterfly garden. Once the heat kicks up, this beautiful plant fades away.

We have a surprise amongst the lilies in the front ditch: Daisy Fleabane. I didn't know what it was until I happened to see it on Claudia's blog. It's a wildflower - most likely seeded by birds. Isn't it pretty?

A few weeks ago when we planted this poppy plant (front), we forgot to take into consideration that the Joe Pye Weed (foreground) grows like crazy and spreads. This is just the start to its growth - it gets over three feet tall. I'm going to have to dig some of this up and replant it elsewhere before it overtakes the poppy plant!

A recent visit to one of my favorite garden centers...

I came home with a candy corn vine and more flowers for one last large planter. I was really excited about the candy corn vine, as I was looking for a vine that would grow in partial sun for a trellis we have in front of the house. Plus, you can bring it indoors and over-winter it. I planted it in a pot in front of the trellis, so I can do just that once the cold weather arrives again.

I cleaned off the patio yesterday, washed the table and got it set up with the seating. It'll be so nice to have meals al fresco once again.


My sister gave me a huge jade plant. I looked all over for a large indoor plant pot that didn't weigh a ton and was halfway attractive. I finally found this pot at Walmart. It's resin, so lightweight. I have the plant in front of a south-facing window in the spare bedroom, so I hope it does well.

Lastly, I thought I'd share a couple of pictures of my fur babies. Monkey (top) and Clementine look so peaceful sleeping in their cat tree, don't they? Monkey is such a big kitty (not fat - just tall and long) that he barely fits in his bed. He always has a leg or two hanging out. Clementine - my sweet little girl - is Monkey's mama. :-)

And speaking of sleeping kitties, where did I find Zippo the other night? Sleeping on the kitchen counter! He's never done that before, so I don't know why he chose that spot, all of a sudden. Oh well, at his age - 18 - I suppose it's easy to fall asleep just about anywhere.

Hope you have a beautiful week, filled with sunshine, flowers and just possibly, a cat nap or two. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

unofficial start of summer

(my niece and my son)

What a glorious, full, extended weekend! 

Tons of errands, more yard work (Brian planted coleus in-between some hostas ~ they will be so beautiful when they fill out), my "baby" niece's high school graduation party that ended with us sitting around a bonfire and talking late into the night, lunch on the river at a nearby restaurant, getting things done around the house, and ending the beautiful evenings on the patio.

Here's to a beautiful summer.

Friday, May 26, 2017

gardening around comfy house

I think we're a little bit late in the game this year with our gardening efforts. We can blame yucky weather (we've had a lot of rain and cool temperatures), full schedules, and my knee. I still can't crouch down or kneel and I'm still struggling with swelling, stiffness and discomfort after being on my feet for several hours. This is despite still being in PT and doing some exercises at home every day, plus elevating and icing. But, I digress.

This narrow gardening space is on the south side of our house, up against our (nice) neighbor's fence. Last year, Brian planted the clematis and four cherry tomato plants. This year, Brian dug up more ground and so we have from left to right: pole beans (we're using our kid's old crib springs for a trellis!), rhubarb, yellow and red cherry tomatoes, clematis, and a peony bush - which I know is hard to see in this photo. It's tiny right now.

I am thrilled with the clematis this year. Brian bought this plant for me for Mother's Day last year and it was maybe 6" tall. Amazing that it's already growing over the top of the trellis.

The idea of even planting something against this ugly privacy fence came to me last year when Brenda at Cozy Little House said something to the effect of, "If you don't like the view out your window, do something outside to make it pretty." So, we did just that. Much better!

We have a little circular garden in our back yard but it doesn't get a lot of sun. The tickseed that I planted several years ago that came back beautifully every year, didn't appear at all this year. And the rose bush I had here was scrawny and weeds were overtaking it, so Brian dug that up and threw it away. That left two phlox plants and one was looking pitiful, so that got dug up, too. All that remained was one lonely phlox. Brian dug up another from the butterfly garden and planted it in the circular garden, and then we purchased two Bleeding Heart plants and planted them in the circular garden as well. When all these plants fill out and flower, I think this little garden will be really pretty.

On to the butterfly garden...the only thing blooming right now is the Columbine (back, left). Brian dug up (notice Brian has been doing a lot of digging?!) a small area in the middle of the Lamb's Ear and we planted Bee Balm. We planted two more Bee Balm plants near the back, right underneath the bench. I can't wait to see if these do well in this garden...they're supposed to grow tall with beautiful, brightly colored blooms. Most of all, I hope the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to them.

While Brian was busy doing all that digging, I was busy planting flowers in pots. We picked up this two-tiered planter on our last trip to IKEA. They sell these pots individually, so you can make however many tiers you want. After filling up the bottom pot with dirt and flowers, I found it was really heavy, so I didn't want to do the same with the top pot. I found three small, lightweight planters in my garage and planted vinca vines in each. I think this will be really pretty when the vines start growing down the sides of the planter.

We've not set up the patio yet this year except for uncovering the patio furniture and getting it into place. It's been so rainy that the cushions are still in the garage. I did get one large patio planter done - except I ran out of petunias when doing this planter! Back to the garden center for me.

 Yellow petunias hanging on the fence...

Meet my new gardening buddy - the Fiskars Deluxe Stand-Up Weeder. This thing makes weeding so easy; I wish I knew about it earlier. You simply place the pointed prongs over the weed, put your foot on the foot press...

tilt the weeder back as you're pulling up...

and then eject your weed into your pile! It actually makes weeding kind of fun...though my entire yard is weeds, so I'd have to dig up the whole yard to get them all. And that's not gonna happen. I'm just pulling up the ones around plants and the walkways.

I still have more to do...coleus is waiting to be planted and so are a few more herbs.

What's growing in your gardens right now?

Have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

cleaning out the bookshelves ~ and my current reading pile

You might recall that last month, I mentioned I was working on a big project - cleaning out my bookcases. I'm proud to say that I finished last week...weeding out and donating. What you see below is the second round. I had already donated eight bags of books to a local library when I took this photo. I ended up getting rid of about 500 books!

(Later edit: These were books I hadn't even read! They were all from library book sales and

Here we are with the finished project. Sorry for the poor photo quality - it's hard to get good photos in a dark basement. Also, my treadmill is in the way. It was too hard for me to move it completely out of the way - that sucker is heavy! If you take a look at the middle section of the bookcase, the last four shelves are now filled with photo albums and scrapbooks. Previously, most of the photo albums were on the shelf in our tiny hallway coat closet. And, amazingly enough, there's actually an empty bookshelf on the bottom right!

Speaking of books, here's my current reading pile. I've included the description of each book from amazon, in case you're interested in any of these.

 A Mindful EveningAt the end of a busy day, sleep can sometimes prove elusive. But that doesn't have to be the case. By integrating meditation into your nighttime routine, you can set the stage for quality rest. A Mindful Evening gives you the tools you need to power down at night. With nearly 200 inspiring quotes and short, easy mindfulness exercises, you'll learn how to end your day with a clear head and calming energy. These simple moments of awareness, healing postures, and meditations can help soothe your soul as you conclude each day and prepare for a tranquil, restful night's sleep.

The Middlepause: On Life After Youth:The Middlepause offers a vision of contentment in middle age, without sentiment or delusion. Marina Benjamin weighs the losses and opportunities of our middle years, taking inspiration from literature, science, philosophy, and her own experience. Spurred by her surgical propulsion into a sudden menopause, she finds ways to move forward while maintaining clear-eyed acknowledgment of the challenges of aging. Attending to complicated elderly parents and a teenaged daughter, experiencing bereavement, her own health woes, and a fresh impetus to give, Benjamin emerges into a new definition of herself as daughter, mother, citizen, and woman.

Self-CompassionKristin Neff, Ph.D., says that it’s time to “stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind.” Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind offers expert advice on how to limit self-criticism and offset its negative effects, enabling you to achieve your highest potential and a more contented, fulfilled life. More and more, psychologists are turning away from an emphasis on self-esteem and moving toward self-compassion in the treatment of their patients—and Dr. Neff’s extraordinary book offers exercises and action plans for dealing with every emotionally debilitating struggle, be it parenting, weight loss, or any of the numerous trials of everyday living.  

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and GraceIn this meditation on cooking and eating, Tamar Adler weaves philosophy and instruction into approachable lessons on feeding ourselves well. An Everlasting Meal demonstrates the implicit frugality in cooking. In essays on forgotten skills such as boiling, suggestions for what to do when cooking seems like a chore, and strategies for preparing, storing, and transforming ingredients for a week’s worth of satisfying, delicious meals, Tamar reminds us of the practical pleasures of eating. She explains what cooks in the world’s great kitchens know: that the best meals rely on the ends of the meals that came before them. With that in mind, she shows how we often throw away the bones, skins, and peels we need to make our food both more affordable and better. She also reminds readers that almost all kitchen mistakes can be remedied. Summoning respectable meals from the humblest ingredients, Tamar breathes life into the belief that we can start cooking from wherever we are, with whatever we have. 

Eat This PoemFood and poetry are two of life's essential ingredients. In the same way that salt seasons ingredients to bring out their flavors, poetry seasons our lives; when celebrated together, our everyday moments and meals are richer and more meaningful. The twenty-five inspiring poems in this book--from such poets as Marge Piercy, Louise Gl├╝ck, Mark Strand, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Jane Hirshfield--are accompanied by seventy-five recipes that bring the richness of words to life in our kitchen, on our plate, and through our palate. Eat This Poem opens us up to fresh ways of accessing poetry and lends new meaning to the foods we cook.

Eli the GoodBicentennial fireworks burn the sky. Bob Seger growls from a transistor radio. And down by the river, girls line up on lawn chairs in pursuit of the perfect tan. Yet for ten-year-old Eli Book, the summer of 1976 is the one that threatened to tear his family apart. There is his distant mother; his traumatized Vietnam vet dad; his wild sister; his former warprotester aunt; and his tough yet troubled best friend, Edie, the only person with whom he can be himself. As tempers flare and his father’s nightmares rage, Eli watches from the sidelines, but soon even he cannot escape the current of conflict. From Silas House comes a tender look at the complexities of childhood and the realities of war — a quintessentially Southern novel filled with music, nostalgic detail, a deep respect for nature, and a powerful sense of place.

What are you reading right now?

Monday, May 15, 2017

full weekend

Ever hear anyone say they were glad it was Monday? Probably not, but that's how I'm feeling today. Granted, I have a busy week ahead of me, but I'm almost glad to be back to my regular routine.

I thought Friday was going to be a good day. We had tree trimmers coming out here to trim our neighbor's trees that overhang both sides of our property. I don't want to get into too many specifics because I don't like to dwell on negative crap, but basically our nasty neighbor to our south had a conniption fit and was threatening both me and the tree trimmers. (We had even sent her a certified letter ahead of time, letting her know what was going to be done - back to her property line. And she signed for the letter, so she knew what was coming.) After the tree trimmers left, I went to the police station and talked to an officer about what was going on, though he said it becomes a civil matter. The whole thing was very stressful.

Enough of that...onto a much better day: Saturday. Brian and I decided to "get the hell out of Dodge" and headed to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. 

We spent a few hours walking around, going in and out of shops, and stopping for lunch. It was cool and windy by the lake in the morning (as evidenced by the waves above and my hair below), but the winds calmed down and the sun came out in the afternoon.

If you walk around on the side streets of the shopping district, you'll find most shops are in beautiful old homes, like this one.

This house wasn't a store - it belongs to the historical society - but I love its cottagey charm.

Look at that porch! I told Brian I want a house in the country like this. 
No. Close. Neighbors. ;-)

We found a new shop where the chalkboard sign outside said, "Like a live etsy shop!" Sounded interesting enough to draw us in. Inside, there were a bunch of different consigned booths. Everything from home decor...

to pottery...

to custom jewelry.

We also wandered into a few antique shops, but most of the stuff was over-priced. We weren't surprised - Lake Geneva is an expensive, touristy town.

I loved this old, hand-stitched double quilt. It was in immaculate condition. The shop owner was kind enough to unfold it for me and let me take photos.

It actually wasn't priced too bad - $145. But I have nowhere to put it. Look at that detail on the underside!

The one thing I ended up purchasing was this hand-crocheted runner. I'll show you the whole thing another time. This is just a teaser photo. Isn't it lovely? The shop was running a 15% off Mother's Day deal, so I got a great price on it.

One of our favorite stores in Lake Geneva was this bookstore - The Breadloaf Bookshop. It used to be in a beautiful old white house on a corner across from the lake. We thought it had gone out of business several years ago, as when we were up there one time, the shop was gone. Imagine our delight when we were walking around and spied this door on the side of a used-to-be church building!

It was smaller than the old store, but still interesting to look around. Though we didn't get much of a chance because the shop owner was way too chatty. Perhaps that's why we were the only ones in there! 

I bought a book just to get the shop owner occupied with a transaction instead of nonstop chatter, though I do like supporting independent bookshops. We were then able to make our hasty exit.

When we'd had enough of Lake Geneva, we got in the car and headed a little further north to check out The Elegant Farmer.

Inside the store, we ended up getting some food items and then we checked out the greenhouse. I wasn't ready to purchase annuals just yet, but we did get some herbs for our herb garden, tomato plants and Kentucky pole bean plants.

Sunday was a gorgeous day. My wonderful husband worked out in the yard for eight hours. He dug out more garden space, dug out invasive plants, dug out weeds, trimmed bushes, and planted a peony bush, Bluebells, and the Celadine Poppy and Bishop's Cap plants I got at the native plant sale last week. Tim weeded the herb garden and planted sage, oregano and parsley. Good thing I have my guys - I still can't crouch all the way down nor kneel just yet. (Still healing from meniscus surgery.)

You can see the peony plant in the foreground; then my clematis (which is so healthy and growing like crazy!) and the newly dug garden space. We'll plant the tomatoes and pole beans there.

Brian got the ladder out of the garage and set it up in its usual spot; then I planted basil and dill in pots and put them on the ladder, along with a pot of pansies and the vintage metal carrier that I got at the antique shop last week.
This isn't the complete look with the ladder, but it's a start.

Bishop's Cap...

Celadine Poppy...

We had a pretty little visitor on the patio, too.

Of course, it was also Mother's Day - one of those holidays I have mixed emotions about, especially with the loss of Phil even more apparent. For dinner,  Brian barbequed bratwurst that we had gotten in Wisconsin, plus a grill basket of mixed veggies. This gift was in the card from Tim. Isn't that great? I can't wait to work with him on a header design for my blog.

The one mishap during the day was when I slammed my pinky toe into the leg of a nightstand. I can't tell you how many times I've smashed my toes on furniture, but this time was different...soon after my klutzy encounter, I noticed the toe was really swollen. I iced it, but a few hours later, it started turning purple on the inside and outside of the toe. I have a feeling I fractured it. 

Happy Monday, indeed!