Monday, June 5, 2023

hello june ~ peonies, yard project, patio and good book

Even though it's technically still spring, I always think of June, July and August as the summer months. It sure feels like summer is here already. Last week it was 90F. And dry. We haven't had rain in weeks. Our grass is brown and brittle like it usually looks in August. My peonies bloomed a couple of weeks ago and the bush is so laden with blooms, that the top half is falling over despite having a peony cage.

I love when the peony and clematis are in bloom at the same time. Gives me a pretty view out my bedroom window instead of the neighbor's ugly brown fence.

I know peonies should be cut when they're budding, not when the blooms are full, but I cut both. I like to leave most of the blooms on the bush though, since they're so pretty. This year there were plenty for the bush and a couple of vases in the house.

We had a big, messy yard project that got done a couple of weeks ago. Our back yard had been flooding when it rained heavily. We have clay soil and over the years, it absorbed less and less water. We needed to have french drains installed in the back yard. 

Looking the other way towards the south side of the house. The underground pipes wrap around to the side of the house by the patio.

In hindsight, we should've moved our patio furniture to the back of the yard by the arborvitae! We had no idea it would be this messy. They had to dig out all the lilies and hostas alongside the patio.

The pipes came down the entire length of the house, along the front yard and ended up in the drainage ditch in front of our house. You can see in this photo how they had to dig down the middle of the lilies and pachysandra. We didn't have them replant any of those, as both spread quickly. It doesn't look pretty this year, but hopefully by next summer, that area will start filling in.

Seeding and blanketing was done where they dug out the grass.

We've been watering every day but with this intense heat, no rain and being late in the season, I don't think much grass is going to germinate.

Hostas that were dug up were replanted alongside the patio. (Though they dug out my Joe Pye Weed too, and must've thrown it away, grr.) Brian got the patio cleaned off and bought a new umbrella, which we desperately needed for the late afternoon sun.

So my yard might not look too pretty this year, but at least there's the patio. For now. Those of you who have been reading my blog over the years know that the neighbor's dreaded mulberry tree is going to wreak havoc on my patio probably within a week or two. We have a new neighbor in this house and he told us he was going to have the mulberry tree cut down, but so far, nothing. We even offered to help him pay for it, explaining how it's been our nemesis over the years and nothing would make us happier than getting rid of that tree!

In the meantime, nothing more relaxing than an evening on the patio with chips and salsa, an icy cocktail, and a good book. This one - The Covenant of Water - is 715 pages long. I'm only on page 100-something. Hope I can renew it because there's no way I'll be able to finish this before it's due! 

From Amazon:

"Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water is set in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, and follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning—and in Kerala, water is everywhere. At the turn of the century, a twelve-year-old girl from Kerala’s long-existing Christian community, grieving the death of her father, is sent by boat to her wedding, where she will meet her forty-year-old husband for the first time. From this unforgettable new beginning, the young girl—and future matriarch, known as Big Ammachi—will witness unthinkable changes over the span of her extraordinary life, full of joy and triumph as well as hardship and loss, her faith and love the only constants.

A shimmering evocation of a bygone India and of the passage of time itself, The Covenant of Water is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding, and a humbling testament to the difficulties undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today. It is one of the most masterful literary novels published in recent years."


Tuesday, May 23, 2023

beautiful may

I think May has officially become my favorite month. The weather in northeast IL is just about perfect this time of year. We've had abundant sunshine with low humidity interspersed with rain and cool days. May in this part of the country brings the start of farmer's markets, art and craft fairs, the opening of garden centers, setting up outdoor spaces and dining al fresco, working in the yard, planting flowers and vegetables, and the official start of grilling season.  

Before I show you what's going on outdoors at Comfy House, I want to introduce my latest house plant. This is a philodendron micans. I'd never seen this variety of phildendron before and fell in love with the color of the leaves, especially when the sunlight is shining through them. I found this plant at an art and craft show. Two young women run a plant business out of their home, which I thought was really cool. 

We got a "new" patio set on FB Marketplace at the end of April. I have it set up in a different way right now; this is when we first brought it home. Our old settee was literally falling apart and we didn't want our glass and metal dining table anymore. It's usually just the two of us dining al fresco and the table took up too much room. We did keep the two white wicker rockers (not shown) from the old set ~ those were still usable and gives us more seating options.

Early May is when perennials and trees truly burst into bloom around here. It's like Mother Nature's gift to us after putting up with five - six loong, dreary, cold months. 

{Celandine poppy}

{bleeding heart}

{bishop's cap}

{not my redbud tree ~ a neighbor-friend's ~ but wish I had one)

Right now, our wiegala bushes are in beautiful bloom...

Pink peonies are about to burst open...

Clematis should be budding anyday now, too. This and the peony bush are right next to each other and when they are in full bloom at the same time, it's breathtaking!

I really need to harvest this rhubarb (it is massive right now) and bake something. The past two years I relied on making a rhubarb-strawberry crisp, but this year I'd like to change it up. A friend happened to recently post these rhubarb recipes on social media and I thought they both looked yummy and different from the same ol' traditional rhubarb desserts. Give them a try with me!

Made our spring trip to one of our favorite garden centers last week.

I never plan out my gardening. I simply buy what appeals to me when I see it and hope for the best. Somehow, it always works. This time I got gerbera daisies, coleus, impatiens, nasturtium, trailing ivy, basil, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, dill, tomato plants, a purple beauty pepper plant, a red onion plant, a hanging basket of calibrochea and a hanging basket of passion flower vine.

Got a few of the bigger planters done ~ here's one that I did with nasturium and gerbera daisy. It'll look much better when it fills out and that nasturium starts blooming. By the way, see those little seedlings on the red bench? They are elm seeds and they fall by the ton. They coat our driveway, sidewalk, porch, patio, patio furniture, and plants and clog our gutters. I could leaf blow 10x/day and it wouldn't make a difference. It's like shoveling while it's still snowing.

The coleus and impatiens got planted (by Brian ~ he does most of the planting-in-the-ground stuff) on the shady north side of our house, just past the mass of ferns, in-between the hostas. Again, when these flowers fill out, this area will look much better.

Our little veggie garden all in pots. It's the only space in our small yard where we get full sun, as we're surrounded by trees.

May, for me, also brought me good news with the stray kitty, Smokey. I was able to easily get him into a carrier (he's such a sweetheart!) and brought him into Save-a-Pet. They will fully vet him, including neutering, and then he will be adoptable. When I inquired about him the other day, the intake woman said he was still very nervous and that they were cleaning his wounded ears three times a day. She said she'd keep me posted about his progress. I miss seeing him every day and feeding him, but I know this is for the best ~ not only for him, but for our community; especially since he wasn't neutered.

Now to have the same kind of luck with Blanco, the feral. After almost a year of taking care of him, I still can only get about three feet away from him before he bolts. I will be using a live trap to try and catch him. I have a feeling it's not going to be easy. He's also not neutered, so it makes me wonder how many kittens there's going to be roaming around soon. And so the cycle continues. 😢

Lastly, another good thing May brings is graduation ceremonies. My youngest niece graduated university last week with a major in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. She's now going on for her Master's degree is Social Work. I'm so proud of her!

Hope the month of May has been beautiful for you, too.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

read, watch, listen, cook

What I'm reading ~ Daring Greatly by Brene Brown & You Could Make This Place Beautiful. Both fantastic. Just finished reading Sensitive: The Hidden Power of the Highly Sensitive Person in a Loud, Fast, Too-Much World - which I highly recommend if you're a HSP.

What I'm watching ~ Season 5 of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (the acting! the costumes! the drama!) & Season 2 of Somebody Somewhere (Bridget Everett is brilliant and hilarious; the show hits you in all the feels.)

What I'm cooking ~ Half Baked Harvest Coconut Curry Chicken Meatballs with Garlic Butter. I'm a big fan of Half Baked Harvest's recipes and this one was no exception. I don't care for ground chicken, so I used a mixture of ground turkey and ground pork. I also didn't use the chili flakes called for in this recipe, as I'm sensitive to hot spices. 

What have you been reading, watching, listening to, and cooking that you would recommend? Please share!

Friday, April 21, 2023

snippets of april goodness

April has been a super busy month. Some not-so-good stuff, but I'm focusing on the good. We had a week of 80+ degree days (and in true Illinois weather fashion, we then crashed 50 degrees and had snow) which pushed everything into hyperspeed bloom. As I was driving the other day, I noticed the street lined with the brilliant green, newly emerged leaves on the trees and all the dogwoods and red bud trees in blossom. I said out loud, "Everything is so beautiful." Coming out of our overwhelmingly long, gray, dark winters into the brilliance of spring is akin to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz stepping out of her farmhouse into the colorful world outdoors. 

(Flowering dogwood)

(Emerging peonies)

(Unfurling ferns)

(Crimson King Maple)


(My friend's daffodils...I think they're Sir Winston Churchill daffodils)

Some other good snippets of April ~

The beautiful spring weather called for dining al fresco once again...

and taking walks in the sunshine along the riverwalk.

Went to my first outdoor farmer's market of the season. I got farm fresh eggs, grass-fed burgers, artisan cheeses and microgreens. I petted dogs and a cat in a cat carrier backpack. Everyone was smiling and friendly and talking to each other. I think the nice weather not only makes people in a general better mood, but the freedom of being "back to normal" after the pandemic makes us more appreciative of life's everyday pleasures.

Walking a labyrinth with one of my best friends was good for our souls.

In my March 24th post, I mentioned going to a women's circle on a horse farm. I went again this month! I swear this farm has magical properties. Even driving down the long, winding gravel road to get to the farm is a surreal experience. The first part of the road is lined with dimly uplit trees, then dense pine trees. You come to a clearing and voila...there are the barns, the beautiful house on a hill, a little log cabin with rocking chairs on a porch, horse pastures, a huge pond, swings hanging from trees...and beautiful land as far as the eye can see. 

I am still taking care of the feral and stray cats that come to my house just about every night, by feeding them and keeping a bowl of fresh water on the porch. Blanco is the feral. Photo was taken out my front door, through the glass. There's no way I could get this close to him in person.

Smokey is the stray. He's so sweet, rolling all over the porch as I talk to him. I've been petting him but I'm going to have to stop. He has open, raw wounds behind his ears from excessive scratching which means he has severe ear mites and they're highly contagious to other cats. As a stray, he probably has fleas, too. I can't take a risk of bringing anything into the house that Clementine could catch. I've been in contact with local cat rescues about Smokey. Only one said they could take him, but they don't have any room right now.

Clementine is still amazingly hanging in there with being in stage 4 kidney failure. She's a skinny little thing, only weighing 7 lbs, and looks even more pitiful with fur loss on her belly, legs, some on her sides and halfway down her tail from obsessive biting and chewing. Over the past years, we've been to two different vet dermatologists and between them and her regular vet, we've tried everything from natural remedies to every prescription medication possible. We've changed her diet, too. Nothing ever helped, at least not in the long term. Her regular vet said it's probably anxiety and since she can't be on any anti-anxiety medication because of her kidneys, we just let her be. Our sweet kitty still has a healthy appetite, is active, uses her cat box, and sleeps snuggled up next to me every night. When she was diagnosed with kidney disease 4-1/2 years ago, the vet said she probably only live another 1-1/2 years. She's a fighter! In this photo, she's waving her paw to get Brian to pet her. She either does that or taps you on the arm. So cute. She loves a lot of attention.

Have a beautiful weekend!