Wednesday, July 31, 2013

the zen of puttering

There's just something about puttering around the house that's both relaxing
 and rejuvenating all at the same time. I find myself losing track of time, rearranging
 things and creating new displays and vignettes. I move from one project and room 
to another, like a moving meditation. Maybe this is why I was never really good at 
crafts. It's very hard for me to sit still and concentrate on one thing. 

So here's a few things I did today. I saw this easy, clever idea on Pinterest.
Take a metal baking rack and hang it behind the stove or on the backsplash,
add some small s-hooks, and use to hang cooking utensils.

There were just a few summer clearance items (75 - 80% off!) left at Michaels.
I found this polka dot planter that ended up costing $1.50. I love how it looks
in the kitchen with the succulents in it.

Remember the watercolor of the Golden Gate Bridge that I found at Secret
Treasures last week? I was saving it for when we re-do Tim's room after he
moves out, but I love it so much that I wanted to use it now. I played around
with staging it in different places, and finally settled on the ladder bookcase in
the living room. The vivid blue in the painting goes perfectly with all the other
pops of blue in this room. The glass and silver bowl in front of the painting is
filled with rocks, shells, and little pieces of wood that we found on the beaches
when we took our trip to San Francisco and the surrounding area back in 2009.

I found this old wax sealer last month when thrifting at Goodwill. It's obviously
painted over, but I did like the red. I love how it goes with the red wall at the
end of the hallway. PS - see the top book, The Riley Reader? Found this at
an antique shop years ago and couldn't resist since our last name is Riley.
Since then, I've found Riley Farm Rhymes and Riley Love Lyrics, both beneath
The Riley Reader.

Moving on to the main bath, I changed out the bottom shelf with a framed print
that used to be in the living room (where the Golden Gate Bridge painting now is),
a pink hydrangea, and stacked green and pink candles.

On to "my" room/office/quiet space/TV room - we still call it "Phil's room" - 
I made a new vignette on top of the dresser. I used an old letter sorter that belongs
to my hubby...he had it on his desk as a kid. I filled it with some note cards, an old
children's Bible (Brian's), some little dishes...and a Goebel bird sits on top with 
Brian's childhood rosary hanging from it. Stacked some books, a plant from the living
 room, a couple of small, colorful picture frames - and voila.

I'm still working on a couple of vignettes in the living room...the top of the buffet and
the top of the console table when you walk in the door. For some reason, these two
spots are a challenge for me. They either look too sparse or too cluttered. Oh well,
that means I get to keep on puttering ~ which is good for the soul!

Monday, July 29, 2013

a music and nature-filled weekend

What a busy, fun-filled weekend! This is what summer is all about ~ spending
time with friends and family, especially if it involves being outdoors.
Though you'll notice in the photo below that everyone is dressed as if it were 
October. That's what the weather certainly felt like this weekend! Even though we
 were wearing hoodies, we were still cold and wishing we had blankets to wrap around
us. Crazy weather for July. So, this is me and my friend, Cindy on Friday night at an
 outdoor concert that was a benefit for cancer. Photography note: never lean away
 from a camera while having your picture taken or it will look like you weigh 500 lbs.

Sunday morning I was still in my pajamas, sipping coffee and reading the Tribune,
when my aunt called and asked if I'd like to go on a hike with her at Volo Bog.
You betcha! Seize the day!
This beautiful nature preserve is only a 10 minute drive from my house and yet
I haven't been there in many years. I had forgotten what a beautiful area it is
for taking in all the sights and sounds of Mother Nature in such a peaceful setting.

I hope you don't mind this post being more photo-heavy than wordy. I believe these
photos speak for themselves. I took a ton of pictures; these are just a few of my faves.

Definitely no words needed for this one. :-)

What'd you do this weekend?

Friday, July 26, 2013

vintage treasures and a little celebration

 Yesterday was my husband's birthday and instead of presents and a party,
we had a relaxing and fun day out and about. Brian and I are both introverted
(yep, two introverts can indeed make a good match!) and prefer quiet times
and not a lot of hoopla and fanfare. Might have a little something to do
with getting older, too. ;-)

I've talked before about the town of Evanston - me, my mom and aunt were
there on a day trip recently and I blogged about it here. Brian wanted to spend
the day in Evanston for his birthday since he grew up there. And we saw
that there was a soul-rock band playing in a park that evening and that there'd
be some top food trucks from Chicago at the park as well, so we thought
that sounded like a fun thing to check out.

We first had lunch at one of those small, greasy corner pizza places that turns
out the best pizza. And you can get it by the slice. I'm telling you, this place - 
Gigios - should be on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Anyway, Brian and I used
to frequent this place all the time when we were dating way back in the early 80's
and the employees were so thrilled when we got married! Those employees aren't
there anymore, but the restaurant still turns out the same pizza. 

We then went to our favorite resale antique store - Secret Treasures. Like I've
said, I think it's a good thing we don't live close to this store because it's too
 much temptation for me. So many cool, vintage things...dishes, glassware,
suitcases, jewelry, silverware, linens, art, small pieces of furniture, kitchen tools,
dice, buttons, toys, postcards, greeting cards, on and on. And the prices can't
be beat. I never walk out of that store empty-handed. My favorite thing I 
found yesterday was this vintage brownie camera. I knew it'd look perfect
on top of my old books.  The two vintage chess pieces are from the barn sale we
went to at the beginning of June. 

 Someone had brought in a cool collection of watercolors. There were a few pieces
I really liked but we are on a budget, so I had to draw the line somewhere. This one
was Brian's favorite piece since it's of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco ~
where we spent our 25th anniversary. When Tim moves out (only three weeks!), we'll
be transforming his room into a guest room and we already have some special art
pieces that we know we'll be hanging in that room. This will be one of them.

 Who remembers sharpening their pencils in school with one of these hand-cranked
sharpeners? I sure do. This still works, too. By the way, that's phlox you can see out
the window. Isn't it lovely?

I have never collected thimbles. I've never even been interested in thimbles.
But I saw a bowl of these for 25 cents each and decided to pick through them
to see if there were any that caught my eye. There were four that I really liked
and I knew they'd fit perfectly in my shadow box. Not sure if the one on the left
is a Holly Hobbie, but I thought the little boy and girl were endearing. The one on
the right is a hand-painted thimble from Israel (marked inside).

I simply thought the pewter thimble was pretty (the other side says "mother") and
love the detail of the kangaroos and grass on the other.

The entire shadowbox...

 Was excited to find a large Goebel owl since I had the baby owl at home.
I acted silly with the two owls at home, having the baby one "kiss" the mama
and saying in a high-pitched voice, "Oh, mama, there you are! I've been looking
for you!" Brian just rolled his eyes and said, "Oh, brother." Hey, you have to 
lighten up sometimes and act silly, right?

 Not sure why this tiny metal garden tool has a rake on one hand and a shovel on
the other, but I thought it'd be great for a fairy garden. I placed it in a pot of 
geraniums for now.

Last, but not least is this pretty blue vase. Not sure if it's old or not, but it
sure is pretty. I'm a sucker for blue and red glass.

 A trip to Evanston wouldn't be complete without some time at our favorite park
by the lake (Lake Michigan - or the Michigan Ocean, as Brian calls it). I had made
a homemade banana cake for Brian's birthday and brought along a couple of pieces
for us to enjoy. Here is Brian shoving the cake in his mouth while talking to his sister
on the phone. Who says men can't multi-task?

I took some pictures at the lake with my phone camera and loved how this
one turned out. Had no idea the sun's rays were shining on us like this.

It was finally time to head to the park to listen to the band and try some
food from one of the food trucks. I had read about The Tamale Spaceship online
and it had great reviews. Check out the masked guy at the window! One of the 
guys behind this business is a mask collector, so I'm assuming they thought wearing
masks would be a positive attention-getter for the business.

 The tamales did not disappoint. I had the adobo roasted chicken tamale with poblano
mole sauce. I'll let you in on a little secret about me: I adore mole sauce. I know there's
many different kinds of mole and different ways of making it depending on the particular
region of Mexico, but I'm willing to try just about any kind unless it's super spicy.

The band was fantastic. The female singer has a strong, sultry voice
and I loved the trio of the trombone, sax, and trumpet. 
Give them a listen here!

I hope your weekend is full of treasures and little celebrations, too. 


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

thank you ~ and honesty about a delicate subject

 I want to thank all of you who left such kind, loving, supportive comments
on my last post in relation to Phil's birthday. It truly touches my heart and gives
me some comfort to know that my friends in Blogland are thinking of me and my family.

 And I want to tell you this: I was honest with saying how Phil passed away. 
That it was drugs (alcohol played a part, too) that killed him. I am not ashamed to admit
 that. There is no need to pussyfoot around it. Like my mom said, she used to think
that those who used drugs were derelicts out on the streets. Obviously, nothing
could be further from the truth. Drug addicts and alcoholics come from all walks
of life. Not only do I know this personally from my own family, from friend's children,
 and from those I've met in support groups, but I've done a lot of  research on this
 subject, too. I can't speak for the area you live in, but here in the Chicago suburbs,
 heroin is an epidemic among young people. It is cheaper to buy than beer, easy to get, 
and these young people do not realize that it is a killer. Or, they hear about that, but
 have the mindset that "it would never happen to me." I don't know where to begin
 to educate people about this epidemic or to even help anyone. For right now, I can
 talk about it on my blog.

We were a "normal" family in the suburbs ~ mom, dad, two kids, pets. Brian 
and I have a good marriage, a strong foundation. We do not smoke, do drugs, or
 drink (OK, the occasional glass of wine for me and the twice-a-year beer for Brian.)
 We love our children with all our hearts and were very involved in their lives. 
The boys were in soccer, Scouts, art club, science fairs, Sunday School. I did tons
 of volunteer work in the schools and was a "room mom". We have loving, supportive
 family members on both sides of the family. In other words: typical "white bread" 
suburban family. Except for the white picket fence.

Moral of the story: drugs and alcohol can happen to anyone. Any family.
It is not a "derelict-on-the-streets" problem. No one should be walking around
with the mindset of, "That would never happen to my child." Or, "My child would
never do that." So then, what can be done to prevent this horror and possible
tragedy? I honestly don't have a pat answer for that. Education helps. That's
why my story on this blog, for starters. Be involved in your child's (or ANY
child close to you) life. Know what is going on with them and who they're
with. Talk to them and their friends. If a child is having any kind of problems,
get them help. Do not hesitate with that.

We knew when Phil was around 15, that he was depressed. From then on,
we went through the gamut of counselors, psychiatrists, outpatient programs,
antidepressants, even hospitalization at one point. We never, ever gave up
on Phil and constantly encouraged him. However, when he turned 18, he 
decided that he wasn't going to take medication anymore (didn't like the way it
made him feel) and he was done with doctors, counselors, or any kind of
groups. We couldn't force him to go since he was 18. All we could do was
constantly encourage him and be loving and supportive. We talked to him
all the time. I told him I'd even go to AA or NA meetings with him and he
refused. He thought he could handle things himself. I need to point this part
out though ~ we had no idea that Phil was into hard drugs near the end. That
he was snorting heroin. And he lived at home! Don't scoff. We are not naive.
We knew he drank and we knew he smoked marijuana. But we never noticed a
behavioral difference with the heroin. He still managed to hold down a full-time
job, own a car, and pay us rent. Drug users are very deceitful. There was never
any evidence of heroin in his bedroom. Of course, the scary thing about having
older kids is that you sometimes have no idea what they're really doing when
they're out with their friends. We didn't find out a lot of stuff until after Phil passed away.

As you can probably imagine, I could write a book about all this.
Maybe someday I will actually start a separate blog. But, for now, this is it.
My hope and prayer for all of you is that 1) this little bit of information will
open your eyes to the reality of drugs and 2) that you never personally experience
this horror with any of your own children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or 
any child that is part of your life. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this. God bless you all.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

what would've been

After a grueling pregnancy where I was hospitalized twice,
my beautiful, perfect firstborn son ~ Philip Thomas ~ emerged into this
 world on July 21, 1988.

He was an energetic, happy, tow headed little boy that loved books, Legos,
soccer, Cub Scouts, his little brother, fishing, and playing outside.

Phil had some struggles in high school due to depression and low self-
esteem, but had a group of close friends, had a great student-teacher
relationship with his algebra teacher, and graduated high school with a
very high ACT score and plans to start attending community college.

But, life doesn't always work out as we plan - or even hope and pray for.
I could write a ton about this and give you many details, but to keep it
in a (tiny) nutshell, with Phil's depression and maybe some other mental
demons that plagued him too, he turned to drugs and alcohol to numb his pain.

This is what ended his way-too-young life at the age of 21.

 My beautiful boy would've been 25 years old today. A young man with
a future and hope. I can't help but wonder what he'd be like today ~
would he be working or going to school, or maybe both? Would he still
live at home or be out on his own? Maybe he'd have a lovely girlfriend.
Some of his friends are already married and a couple even have babies.

The three of us - me, Brian, and Tim - chose to celebrate Phil's birthday today
 in our own quiet way. We went to the grave site with a quilt, sandwiches, and
water bottles. We spread out the quilt by my dad's and Phil's grave (Phil's ashes
are buried at the foot of my dad's grave) and picnicked in the sun, sharing memories
of Phil and talking about life and death and perhaps what happens after we die....
what the Bible says, what we believe, what we don't believe, what some others believe.

This I know for sure: that life is too short. That 21 years with your child
isn't enough. There should've been a lot more happy birthdays.

Friday, July 19, 2013

have a seat in my kitchen

I mentioned in my last post that I had done some room rearranging ~
the kitchen included. Would you like to see what I've done?

You might remember that the butler's table used to be in my living room
in front of the window, topped with a lot of plants. I'm loving it here in the
kitchen. It'll be perfect for when we have company...I can use it as the beverage
station and top it with glasses, an ice bucket, and an assortment of drinks.
Or, I could even use it to hold the cutlery, napkins, and plates.
What used to be in this place was a metal and wicker bookcase that
held all my cookbooks. That's been moved into my office/Phil's old room.
And where you see the white stool is where the painted black table was ~
that's now outside on my porch, used to hold potted flowers.

Here's where we eat all our meals. And where Brian and I play board games in
the evening. And where I make out my meal plans and grocery list. And sometimes
read a magazine or the Sunday newspaper. And where I visit with friends
or family members that come over. Isn't that usually how it goes...
that everyone gravitates to the kitchen? 

 I'm still looking for two more chairs for my kitchen table, but for now it's
perfect for just the two of us. Tim is rarely home for dinner as he's usually
working or at school. On my to-do list...painting these chairs! I also want to
eventually get a new rug (finances don't permit right now) and move this
sisal one downstairs.

This is the view of my kitchen as you walk into it from the living room.
On my wish list is tearing out the narrow upper cabinet above the sink
and the three to the right above the counter ~ and replacing that area with
open shelving. We also want to replace the old (original of the house!) range
hood with a microwave range hood. Again, finances stop us from getting these
things done. Please don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining! I am satisfied with
what I have and know I'm blessed to have a decent house and to be a
full-time homemaker right now. That is what I've chosen and I am happy
with my choice. I'm just pointing out what we eventually hope to have done 
in this room. Oh yeah, and we also want to have recessed lighting put in the
ceiling as this ceiling fan fixture is the only light source we have besides the light
over the stove and sink.

Of course, a kitchen wouldn't be complete without something delicious
being whipped up. Here's one of my latest creations - gazpacho! Talk about
perfection in a bowl on a hot summer day when it's too hot to cook. I've
made gazpacho in the past, but it was always pureed. After having the chunky
gazpacho at The Lucky Platter in Evanston, IL last week, I wanted to experiment
with making it like that. I started with a base of Trader Joe's low-sodium Garden
Patch juice and added a jar of my friend's canned garden-fresh tomatoes.
I then added a little bit of chopped onion, garlic, jalapeno, cucumber, and
cilantro and used an immersion blender to make this smooth base. I then added
chunks of all the above except for the jalapeno, but adding a little bit of diced
fennel, green pepper, and fresh cilantro. Oh. My. Goodness. And the longer it sits, 
the better it tastes. I just ate the last bowl for lunch today and am almost crying
 that it's all gone! Yes, it's a little time-consuming to chop up all these veggies, 
but sooo worth it. Another thing that's great about making something like this
is that you can vary the veggies that you put in. You can use red pepper instead
of green. You can use anaheim peppers instead of jalapeno. Basil instead of
cilantro. I think the main thing is to use the freshest tomatoes that you have
or can find. I was so glad to still have a jar of homemade canned tomatoes
since mine aren't ripe in my garden yet!

 Thanks for visiting ~ hope you have a happy weekend!

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