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! 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

antiquing finds

A local antique shop had a gardening event this past weekend, so I went to check it out.

I was hoping to find a bistro table for our little front porch, but no luck. 

Instead, I found a few pretty things inside the shop. I love milk glass, but I normally pass on the vases. I thought these three were unique enough to purchase, especially for only 99 cents each.

I also picked up this metal carrier...maybe it was one a milk bottle carrier? For now, this is how I'm using it - notice I stuck a couple of the milk glass vases in there - but I'll probably move it outdoors in the warmer weather to hold small pots of flowers.

I put the third milk glass piece in another carrier that I had. The lilacs are from my yard.

I don't know if these vintage pottery pieces are candlesticks or bud vases. Unfortunately, I didn't notice the entire leaf was broken off on the piece on the left until I got home. When the shop owner was wrapping these pieces, he said that one of them had a chip and asked me if that was OK. I said, "sure" without even really looking. Lesson learned.

The bottom of the candlesticks/bud vases have an unreadable signature and label. 
Any ideas?

I love this bowl. It's made by Harker Hotoven Pottery. I now have it sitting on my kitchen counter with fresh fruit in it.

Another find were these horseshoes. I hung them on our fence over nails. I posted the photo on Instagram and someone said that I have them hanging upside down! My question was, how do you hang them the other way? You certainly can't drive a nail through them.

I also went to a plant sale where all the plants were native to our region. I ended up getting a big poppy plant, bluebells, bishop's cap, and a variety of herbs. I can't plant any of these plants yet though, because it's still too cold. We've been having frost warnings at night. We also are changing up a couple of our little garden areas around the house this year. So once we do that and get these new plants in the ground, that'll be another post for another day.

Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

in my neighborhood

There's a long, winding, hilly road right around the corner from my house that I travel often. It takes me to and from physical therapy twice a week. It's always been one of my favorite drives as it outlines the edge of the State Park, so the scenery is always beautiful.

There's one particular house that I've always loved. It's a beautiful, well-manicured brick ranch set way back from the road. In front, there's a penned in area with chickens, sheep and llamas. Today I decided to park my car alongside the road and walk over and say hello to the animals and take their pictures. Yes, I do talk to animals. I greeted them with an enthusiastic, "Hi, babies!" This is the look I got from the llama.

The sheep had the same reaction.

Spring is still blooming here. It's been very rainy and unusually cool. What a beautiful view these homeowners - and the animals have - on the side of their property.

Off to the side of this property are these antique farm implements. Aren't they interesting? I like how the owners use them as sculptures in their landscaping.

Back at my own home, I don't have llamas, sheep or chickens to say hello to, but I do have three kitties that I always talk to. Sometimes they do talk back in meows; other times they display the "don't look at me" pose. Furry paws = built-in eye masks.

Happy Thursday!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

cookbook review - one pan & done

Who doesn't like to make delicious meals using just one sheet pan, cast iron skillet, or baking pan? I found this cookbook to be full of delicious, healthy recipes that are simple enough for weeknight dinners, yet impressive enough to serve to guests.

From starters, snacks and sides to breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert, this cookbook covers it all. There's even a chapter on vegetarian main dishes.

Each recipe has a short description, the list of ingredients (none of which are obscure), and the instructions. Best of all, most of the recipes have full page photos.

The author, Molly Gilbert is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, former cooking instructor and private chef, and former recipe tester for the kitchen of Saveur. She's also a food blogger at Dunk and Crumble

I've made a few recipes from this book and look forward to trying more. Definitely a thumbs-up cookbook!

I received One Pan & Done from Blogging for Books for my honest, personal opinion review.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

antiquing, a new furry friend, and grilling

Every winter, me, my mom and aunt make our annual trek to the antique mall a couple of miles from my house. It's a great place to explore and treasure hunt when it's bitter cold and we're stuck indoors. This year, we weren't able to get together on a Saturday in winter for various reasons. We finally found ourselves there this past Saturday. This is me and my little mommy. :-)

I found a few treasures: for one, this yellow cat pitcher. It's in the little nook above the range and microwave.

I also came home with this metal shelf and the mini pitcher in the middle. Right now the shelf is on my kitchen wall. We didn't want to make any holes in the newly painted wall, so I used a 3M sticky hook, but I think it looks tacky. I'm going to look for a pretty, decorative hook at Hobby Lobby. Nail holes, be damned!

Sunday, I drove out to the south side of Chicago to visit with my cousin before having to pick up Brian at the airport. He was in Los Angeles, CA for five days, visiting his sister.

I saw these flowers growing underneath my cousin's lilac bush and I asked him what they were. He said his mother planted them many years ago and that they were bluebells. So pretty!

Sorry for the lousy JR. He showed up on my cousin's doorstep last week. He's such a love, that when I was trying to take his photo, he kept coming up to my phone and rubbing it. He's already made himself right at home in my cousin's house, sleeping in his bed and on a favorite chair in the living room. My cousin's previous kitty, Grayce passed away last year and my cousin has been heartbroken. JR is just what my cousin needed. It's funny...Grayce was also a stray that showed up at my cousin's house. And my cats were strays that appeared at my door, too. I think they know who the cat lovers are.

Meanwhile, Brian came home to beautiful, sunny weather and with a couple more days off work, broke out the power washer and started tackling all the dirty stuff outdoors.

Brian said he couldn't believe how much the trees and flowers blossomed in those few days he was away. In fact, just today, our lilacs started to open.

The clematis has already climbed 3/4 of the way to the top of the trellis and has flower buds.

And we were able to grill for the first time! Brian power-washed the Weber and he grilled sausages and a basket full of veggies ~ zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and red and orange peppers. I made a side dish of brown rice with slivered almonds and chives from our garden.

Did you ever see a cat that liked grilled zucchini?! We had the grilled veggies up on the kitchen counter and weren't paying any attention to Zippo, who was in the open kitchen window. Next thing you know, Zippo (who is almost 18 but can move quickly when he wants to) grabbed a piece of yellow squash in his mouth, jumped off the counter, and ran across the kitchen with the squash dangling from his mouth like it was a mouse. We were laughing so hard...he looked so ridiculous! That piece of squash was gone in a heartbeat. We couldn't believe it...a cat likes grilled squash? So, we gave him a piece of zucchini. He loved it.

Doesn't look like we'll be grilling again for awhile. The extended forecast shows nothing but rain - or at least, cloudy skies - for the next 10 days. And much cooler temps. I need to tell my California sister-in-law to send more sunshine our way.

Enjoy the rest of your week!