Friday, May 17, 2019

crazy may

Me, Brian and my mom last weekend...yes, all bundled up. We were freezing and couldn't wait to get to our car when this picture was taken. And look at those gray skies. That's how it's been most of this month ~ with a ton of rain. I saw on a news site the other day that last year at this time, 88% of the farmer's crops were planted. This year, only 11%. I feel bad for the farmers, but also for us as consumers. Because you know it's going to hit our pocketbook.

Despite the cold, gloomy weather, the three of us had a good time at an outdoor spring market, then going out to lunch. It was the day before Mother's Day, so this was our "celebration". The actual day of Mother's Day was low-key for me, which is how I like it. We met up with Tim later in the day to have soup and salad at Panera and just sit and talk a bit. I've never been the type of person who likes to get dressed up and go somewhere fancy, especially on a holiday. I think this day is over-rated anyway...and can also be painful for a lot of women. There are those of us, such as myself, who have lost a child, who have lost their mother, who don't have a good relationship with their mother, who haven't been able to have a child, have chosen not to have a child, or even have a toxic relationship with their child.

On the occasional rare day this month that we've had sunshine, I've been going around with my camera taking photos of all the beautiful blooms. These are Benjamin Franklin daffodils in my neighbor-friend's yard.

Her crab apple tree was also budding...and now is in full bloom with gorgeous white flowers. I love how this tree changes like that.

After yesterday's rain, my lilacs burst into bloom. I wish you could smell them!

Bishop's Cap is a woodland plant that loves this cool, damp weather. Aren't those teeny white flowers on it amazing? 

Earlier in the week when we had a day of sunshine, I headed to a nearby nursery to see what plants they had. I came home with most of this mass. (That's lettuce sprouting in the planter.) I'm going to make Tim a planter with the red geraniums and trailing ivy for his apartment balcony. I need to make large pots of flowers for the porch and patio, as well as small pots to tuck here and there. And then I still need to decide what to do with Zippo's memorial garden and a circular garden in the back yard. So this is just a dent. I won't be getting any planting done this weekend because of ~ you guessed it ~ more rain. If we have flowers planted by Memorial Day this year, it'll be a miracle.

Another perk of sunny days...beautiful sunsets on the nearby lake.

And having a glass of wine on the patio in the evening.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, May 10, 2019

spring garden planning

This spring has been so fickle. I thought for sure that our wet, cold (and even snowy) April would bring warmer temps and drier weather for May. That hasn't come true, so far. It's been mostly chilly, damp, and rainy. I feel like we'll never get the yard cleaned up and mowed, garden beds mulched and flowers planted. The positive side: everything is so green now!

 Can't wait to make a strawberry-rhubarb crisp with my own rhubarb.

Clematis has really taken off, but right now it looks like a tangled mess. Pretty soon it'll have huge, purple flowers.

Peony about to bloom...

This past Tuesday after physical therapy (which is going OK...slower progress than expected, but no surprise always is for me!), I stopped by the garden center even though it was barely 50 degrees with whipping winds. I wanted to see what was available right now to plant in flower pots and perhaps pick up some herbs. I was walking around with pots of basil and cilantro in my hands and one of the garden employees said to me, "I hope you're not planning on planting those right now!" She said it was still too cold for the basil. I asked about the cilantro and she said it was too windy. Sigh. I put the plants back. No use in buying anything right now and then having to keep it in the garage.

 Every spring on my first visit to a garden center, I get a little excited and want to buy every plant and flower I see. The adult version of a kid in a candy store.

Who can blame me when there's all these bright, beautiful colors?

 Gerbera daisies - one of my favorites.

And beautiful, romantic dahlias.

I've been thinking about what I want to do for Zippo's memorial garden. When we had Zippo put down last November in our home via mobile vet, Brian buried him in our back yard. It's a spot close to the back pine trees, near the composting bin and by the neighbor's fence. It's a bare, weedy spot, so needs a lot of work. In the meantime, I ordered this plaque on etsy.

I was thinking Forget-Me-Nots would be appropriate for the memorial garden...

 and perhaps some catmint, too.

There was another day that I visited a couple of nearby antique shops during their garden days spring sale. I poked around, outdoors and in...

and ended up coming home with this.

I haven't decided yet where I'm going to use it outdoors (hung on the fence?) or what I'm going to do with it, but it's all part of the spring garden planning that's going on.

Well, I wrote most of this post yesterday - Thursday - and today when I got up, I was happy to see the sun was shining. Granted, it's only 43 degrees, but I'll take the sunshine and dry weather after so much rain. I read that the farmers are behind in planting because of the flooded fields, so I shouldn't complain about not being able to plant flowers just yet.

Have a wonderful weekend! 

Friday, April 19, 2019

playing catch-up

Hello! Sorry I've been gone for awhile. It seems that there just isn't enough time to blog when I want to, or else I haven't been in the mood to write. I'm still struggling with this back pain on and off (I finally start PT next week) and I recently had a horribly infected stye on my eyelid which made me feel cruddy in general. I've noticed a lot of blogs haven't been very active lately. I think Instagram is taking over. I do like IG and it's definitely a lot easier to post a quick pic with a few words, but I also miss the stories and warmth behind regular blog posts.

It's been a crazy weather ride here in northern Illinois, but that's typical for April. Last week, there were a couple of days that were actually warm enough to sit out on the front porch in the morning with my coffee (which I never take for granted - it was glorious!) and for a couple of beautiful, sunny walks in the State Park. And then a few days later - this past Sunday - we had a snowstorm that dumped six inches of wet, heavy snow on us. Two days later, it was 70 degrees and all the snow was gone.

So now everything here is finally exploding into bloom...I take a walk around my yard and see hostas, clematis, sedum, lamb's ear, bishop's cap and clematis all coming to life. Chives, fennel, red leaf sorrel and mint are growing in the herb garden. Some of the buds on my lilac bush have gently opened, revealing tiny purple flowers that will soon burst into heavenly scented blooms. I even saw my first butterfly the other day! This red admiral  was on a dandelion in my next-door neighbor's yard. His side yard joins up with ours on the south side of our house. The neighbor's side yard gets direct sun, so the dandelions love that area. 
The bees and butterflies need the dandelions in the early spring for pollen and nectar. I'm so glad our neighbor is like us and doesn't spray any weed killer on his lawn. Did you know that weed killers not only kill butterflies and bees, but in us humans are linked to cancer, kidney, liver and nervous system damage, endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity? So, please - leave the dandelions alone! And hey, if it's your thing, you can use the dandelion greens in your salad or make dandelion wine with the flowers. 

We haven't begun yard clean up in earnest yet. And there is so much to do. All the garden beds are filled with wet, dead leaves; there's blown wood chips all over the back yard; piles of dead pine needles from the arborvitaes that line our back yard; perennials that need to be cut down; bare patches of ground that need grass seed...the patio furniture will need to be uncovered and the patio cleaned...and on and on. I've only done a little raking around the yard so far because of my back and because of the weather.  I read on a gardening site that if you start cleaning out your garden beds before the daytime temps are at least a consistent 50 degrees F., you risk throwing away butterflies, bees and other pollinators that are overwintering in the dead leaves and hollowed out stems of last year's plants.

I finally got my old, chippy window on the buffet painted (I do want to distress it a bit though) and the decor in my living room lightened up a bit for spring.

This weekend is a holiday celebration for both Jews and Christians. However you choose to celebrate, I hope you have a blessed weekend with your family and/or friends.

Friday, March 29, 2019

getting closer

Hello friends, and happy Friday. We've had a couple of beautiful "teaser" days here in northern Illinois where the sun is shining and it's warm enough to open the windows. It actually got up to 63 degrees yesterday. I had every window open in the house and the cats went crazy, not knowing what to do. They didn't nap the entire morning - they were too busy running from window to window, sniffing the fresh air and lunging at the birds and squirrels. Good thing we have new, strong screens! I can't tell you how wonderful it is to not only feel the fresh air in the house again, but to hear birdsong all day long. The extended forecast shows much cooler weather and lots of rain, maybe even a little s*** mixed in, so I'm enjoying every moment of this beautiful weather while I can.

And my lilac bush is starting to bloom! Another sure sign of good things to come.

Back at the Big Box Store again - this time looking for a large houseplant to go in a corner (I didn't find what I was looking for). I was so excited to see the pansies are here! Granted, they're inside for now because our weather is still too iffy, but next time I'm in that area, I think I'll get a pot of flowers for my porch and then put them in the garage at night.

The painting of Tim's room and the hall bath is done. You can see what a small bedroom this is. We're making this room into an office (for Brian)/guest bedroom/lounging spot. I wanted a day bed for this room but discovered they are bigger than I thought. So now I'm looking for either a love seat that pulls out into a bed or more of a twin platform bed: Something that doesn't have a headboard. It will go on that wall to the left, towards the window. Which also needs curtains.

This is the only spot that worked for this big desk. I wanted the desk in front of the window, but it blocked the vent. And if I moved the desk over to the right where the vent would be under the opening in the desk, it was too close to the closet door. Why do builders put vents right underneath windows?! I could never figure that one out. We also need to find a desk chair that "goes" with this desk. I've been looking on Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp almost every day. I know eventually it will come to us!

Here's the other side of the room between the closet and the door.

The bathroom color isn't much different than the previous color, though this gray is pretty much a true gray and a little darker. The previous color had slight blue undertones. We also had the painter paint the wood trim at the ceiling white. All I need to do in this room now is decide on shelving for above the toilet and then on the wall to the left, decide whether we want to re-hang the towel bar or find a decorative board with two hooks. I might even look for a new shower curtain.

Bathroom After:

Bathroom Before:

Speaking of painting, I'm working on chalk painting the old window that I've had on my buffet for years. It was getting way too worn and chippy.

See the worn part? That's how it was all over. I didn't sand the window - I was kind of afraid to since it's most likely lead paint. The chalk paint has worked just fine going over all the chipped parts anyway.

An update on my back issues: the x-ray showed I had height loss in L4-5 which basically means disc degenerative disease and then arthritis in L5-S1 (lumbo sacral area). Like I said in my last post, one really needs a MRI to see what's truly going on. When I questioned the nurse who called with the results, she said insurance dictates that you do x-rays first, then physical therapy, then have a MRI if needed. Ah yes, the good old health insurance protocols in the US. In the meantime, a friend of mine gave me a recommendation for a good physical therapist. I called to set up the appointments but can't get in with her until April 23rd. In the meantime, it's all about self-care and doing what I have to do to keep the pain at bay. I can't sit too long and I've also discovered that our living room couch is mostly off-limits for me. It's too soft and doesn't give any support. If I sit on it for longer than just a few minutes or dare to lie down on it to read, my back yells at me when I get up. So I'm staying active, taking walks either around the neighborhood or walking on the treadmill, doing yoga stretches twice a day, using a heating pad first thing in the morning when my back is especially stiff, spraying Bio-Freeze on my back several times a day, and taking CBD oil to take the edge off the pain.

Hope you have a great weekend with some fun plans!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

a sort of discombobulated month

March is a fickle month in northern Illinois. We could have temperatures in the 30's or 70's, rain or snow, endless cloudy days or plenty of sunshine (more unlikely). Signs of spring have finally started here. Daffodils and lilies are poking out of the ground and red-wing blackbirds and Big Fat Juicy Robins have returned. When Zippo was alive, he loved watching the robins out the window. I always told him they were "Big Fat Juicy Robins" when he was staring out the window at them and swishing his tail. I miss him so much. Chipmunks have come out of hibernation too, and are once again running around under the bird feeder, hoping to find fallen seeds.

 Every March, as I scan the ground for signs of green and the flash of the orange breast of robins hopping around, I feel as excited as a little kid seeing the ice cream truck coming down the road. 

Another sign of spring in this area: fruit trees appearing at the big box stores. The outdoor garden center was being set up with the metal display stands and piles of top soil and mulch. That means the pansies will be coming soon. I can't wait to have a pot of their cheery yellow and purple goodness on my front porch again.

Spring projects have started around the house, as well. We hired a neighborhood painter to paint what was Tim's bedroom and the hallway bathroom. We chose the same pale cream color for Tim's bedroom as our kitchen. We really liked the current color of our bathroom, but we couldn't find the old paint can with the name of the color on it. I was ready for a slight change in that room anyway, so after looking at a lot of gray paint swatches, we chose Flannel Gray by Behr. It was a little too dark, so we had the shade reduced by 25%.

Here's the hallway bathroom "before". It's a small room, so not easy to photograph. The brown trim near the ceiling will be painted white. The only reason we're having this room painted in the first place is because the paint was bubbling and peeling. The previous painter used an eggshell finish, which obviously did not stand up to all the moisture in the bathroom. This new painter is using a semi-gloss finish.

I hate having my house in disarray ~ everything from the bathroom and Tim's room is now in My Space (what was Phil's bedroom) and the basement. It didn't seem like there was much in either room, but when you start dismantling a room down to nothing, there's always more stuff than you think. Even the toilet tank is in My Space. It's also very unnerving to me to have a stranger in my house. With having a small house, there's really nowhere for me to "hide" except the kitchen. I guess I could hide out in the basement family room, but I don't like hanging out down there. It's rather dungeon-like. At least in the kitchen, I can be busy making food or using the kitchen table as my office space. Today I made a french potato salad (the recipe can be found here, though I also add a little fresh lemon juice and capers) and Energy Balls.

Back to the painter and it being unnerving having him in the house....he plays sports radio loudly the entire time, which tends to drive me up the wall. I know it could be a lot worse. It could be music I can't stand. I also know that this soon shall pass. And then I get to decide on the fun decorating stuff. Do I want the same sort of shelves going back on the bathroom wall, or something a little different? Perhaps I'll choose hooks for towels on the opposite wall (not shown) instead of a towel bar. As for Tim's room, we still need to decide on a twin or daybed, a rug, curtains and wall art. The room will be a combination guest/nap/TV room and Brian's office space.

Meanwhile, I've done little things to lighten up the house for spring. I've changed out the heavy throws for lighter ones and added pops of yellow for spring delight. All Clementine approved.

I just got a new piece of artwork. Isn't this a beautiful print? I love owls. I never knew this acquaintance of mine was artistic until she started posting photos of her work on Facebook. I was blown away. Lydia sells her work on Society6, if you're interested. Besides owls, she paints moose, flamingos, otters, elephants, ducks, pigs, etc. You can order the prints as wall art, note cards, cushions, bags, apparel, clocks...Society6 will print on basically anything.

I hung the print in my living room entryway for now. Who knows, I might put it somewhere else later. I'm known for changing things around. I also moved a white lamp to the corner to lighten it up for spring. Previously I had a tall silver metallic vase with willow springs and light stalks in it. It was great for winter, but I was in the mood for something lighter.

In other news ~ in my last post, I mentioned my battle with back, hip and buttock pain. It's been on and off since then...but a few days ago, sciatica really set in and I was in so much pain Tuesday night, that I was crying out in pain with every step I took. I could barely walk. I was holding onto furniture and the walls. I didn't sleep most of the night because the pain was keeping me awake. I went to my Primary Care Physician yesterday, even though I knew there wasn't much she could do except prescribe drugs and physical therapy and/or send me for x-rays or a MRI. I was feeling a little better thanks to ibuprofen, but I don't want to rely on that either. She wanted me to go on a Medrol pack (steroids), but I told her I wasn't willing to do that unless it was a last resort. Steroids won't cure sciatica. They simply "put a Band-aid on the problem". Steroids have way too many horrible side effects, including insomnia. I'm not willing to go there right now, trading one problem for another. And then the pain comes back as soon as the steroids wear off, so why bother?

She did send me for a lumbar spine x-ray, which again, I feel is basically useless because all it's going to show is arthritis. It won't show herniated discs or spinal stenosis like a MRI would. I had a MRI on my back about 10 years ago and at the time, that showed three herniated disks. So I don't know if one of them is now worse or if I have a new one...or maybe I do have arthritis or spinal stenosis or God-only-knows what else. 

The doctor did write a three week prescription for physical therapy, which I'm going to consider. I'm also looking into acupuncture. Our insurance doesn't cover it and it's a little pricey, but perhaps a few sessions would help relieve the pain. Oh - and I also want to mention that I'm regularly taking CBD oil except that I upped my normal dosage and that is helping relieve the pain and inflammation, too. All-natural and no side effects like NSAIDs.

How is the month of March going for you?