Friday, November 29, 2013

giving thanks

 We had such a lovely Thanksgiving dinner at my mom's house.
Mom always outdoes herself with homemade everything, including
the rolls. I helped out by making roasted carrots and parsnips, corn casserole,
 and cranberry-orange relish. I love this photo of Tim watching  his grandma cooking
 - he was so hungry and kept picking at the turkey and asking  when dinner was going
 to be ready. I think my mom's little dog, LuLu was hoping for a turkey handout, too.
No such luck. People food makes her sick.

It was a small bunch of us this year. Brian, me, our family friend, Glenn, cousin
Greg, my mom...and Tim was taking the photo. Sorry for the bad quality of
all these photos - I was using my phone.

Mom made a homemade pecan pie for desert. Her recipe is in this cookbook from 
1978. We lived in Russell County, Kentucky back then. I'm not too fond of pecan pie, 
but it's one of Brian's favorites.

 We really missed those relatives who chose to go their own ways this
year (gotta love family drama) and those who are no longer with us on
this dad; our son, Phil; my great-uncle; and just this year, Brian's
sister, my grandpa, and my great-aunt.
PS - I love this man and am so grateful for him.

No Thanksgiving day or Black Friday shopping here for us. I don't believe in 
supporting retailers who chose to be open on Thanksgiving day, which forces
 their employees to take time away from family and/or friends. And you couldn't 
pay me to shop with hoards of people all fighting over the latest gadget and deal. 
Not to mention, we're on a very tight budget and don't have the extra shopping
money, anyway! Other news: our furnace went out on Thanksgiving morning.
Cousin Greg brought three space heaters to my mom's house for us yesterday,
so even though our house was very cold, we were fine sleeping last night.
A repairman came today and discovered it was the gas valve. Four hundred
dollars later, our 25-year old furnace is back in business. Even though that expense
 really hurt, we are thankful that it wasn't worse - such as replacing the furnace itself. 
This day of gratitude wouldn't be complete without me thanking all of you for
reading my blog and being so supportive. My life is enriched because of you.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

say when

 I don't know what's going on in the universe today, but it's been a really weird
day. A lot of back and forth with good news - and my spirits would be up and I'd be
 feeling happy and thankful and then bad news - and my emotions would
come crashing down. I even had a random Comcast guy come to my door today,
wanting to talk to me as a former customer. No, thank you. And then in Target
when Tim and I picked up his acne prescription, a man followed us from the
prescription counter saying he wanted to talk to us....and told us his about
his acne problems as a teenager and what he did and used. Strange.

 What's everyone (US friends) doing for Thanksgiving? I picked up Tim
at school yesterday and he's home until Saturday morning. We'll be going
to my mom's house tomorrow for dinner and Brian will meet us there when
he gets off work. Yes, he has to work on Thanksgiving day. Such is the life
of someone who works in emergency services - in Brian's case, as a 911
dispatcher. There's no such thing as a holiday for these workers. We'll also be
 joined by a cousin and a guy from our church who had nowhere to go for 
Thanksgiving dinner. I'm the designated veggie person. I'm going to make roasted
 carrots and parsnips, corn pudding, and a cranberry- orange relish. Mom is making
the turkey, homemade rolls, mashed potatoes, stuffing (or, do you call it 
dressing? I think it depends on where you're from), and a homemade pecan 
pie. Oh ~ and there will be wine. :-)

Monday, November 25, 2013

bleak, blustery, and baking

This is what Monday looks like in northern Illinois today.
Bare trees, gray skies, cold and windy.

 And did I mention snow? Yeah, that stuff too. It's mostly swirling around in
the air and not sticking to the ground, which is fine with me. That means
easier driving and no shoveling. Guess I shouldn't be shoveling anyway
with the shoulder injury. I had my second physical therapy appointment
today and it went well, though I'm a little sore right now. I also have yoga
class tonight, so we'll see how that goes. Oh - and this area in the photo below
is the entrance to my house. I repurposed these broken iron trellis archway
 pieces as vine trellises. If I'm in the mood, I'll wrap some little white lights
around them for Christmas.

 I made homemade cinnamon rolls on Saturday evening. Dangerous stuff!
I delivered a couple to one of Tim's nearby friends who was in the middle of
 writing a research paper, and I sent more to work with Brian today. Here they
on the second rising...

After they came out of the oven...

And after I frosted them too heavily while they were still warm...

1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup butter, melted
4-1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup white sugar
2-1/2 tsp. active dry yeast

Cinnamon-sugar mixture:
1 cup packed brown sugar
2-1/2 T. ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/8 cup milk or cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Place ingredients in bread machine in the order listed in recipe. Select dough
cycle and press start. When cycle is finished, let the dough double in size in
the machine. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface; cover and let rest for 10
min. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
Roll dough into a 16x21" rectangle. Spread dough with the 1/3 cup softened
butter and sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar-cinnamon mixture. Roll dough
up jelly-roll style and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13
pan (I needed more than one pan); cover and let rise until nearly doubled,
about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F/200 C.
Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 min. While rolls are
baking, make frosting: beat together the cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, 
confectioners' sugar, milk or cream, and vanilla extract. Spread frosting
on warm rolls and try to eat just one! Fall into fat and sugar coma.

Happy Monday, everyone.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

transforming a tray for the winter season and some holiday talk

 I found this blue metal tray at the end of summer at Michaels for a few dollars.
I loved the bright color and it matched the other bright blue decor I had going on
in the living room. I used it on the coffee table for awhile - stacked magazines in 
it - then the tray was banished to the basement for the fall.

Since I've been incorporating gold accents into my decor now since fall, and gold
also being a lovely color for Christmas decor, I decided to spray-paint the tray
 gold and resurrect it from the basement. So, here's the tray before:

 And, the tray after:

I am not getting ready for Christmas just yet - I'm one of those who believe the
holidays should be celebrated one at a time - so Thanksgiving is definitely
first. We'll be having dinner at my mom's house on Thanksgiving so Mom is
making the turkey, but I'm the designated veggie person. I've been looking at
some vegetable recipes in magazines, blogs, and Pinterest and have come up
with a few that sound really good. Anyway, last night Brian and I window-shopped
around what me and Penny affectionately call the "Fancy Pants Mall" and I must
say that some of the Christmas displays were really pretty. This tree is in 
Pottery Barn - interesting, but in reality, who would really put these gigantic
woodland creatures in their Christmas tree? Each to their own, I suppose.
Maybe if you lived in a big log cabin house with soaring wood ceilings.

Crate and Barrel was more my style. Always has been. Even as an older teen,
when I worked at Marshall Fields (now Macy's, much to this Chicagoan's chagrin)
in a mall, I would go to Crate and Barrel on my lunch break and look at all the
beautiful home furnishings and decor and daydream about what my house would
 be like someday. I still have some wooden Christmas ornaments that I bought back
 in the early 80's before I was married. Crate and Barrel still has a nice assortment
 of unique ornaments; some were as little as $2.50.

Typical man - "You go ahead and look around, honey - I'll relax right here on
this comfy couch."

Hope everyone is having a great is so cold here today! Going 
down to 8 degrees F tonight. So thankful for my warm home.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

the yin and yang of days

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that one of my passions is healthy
 cooking and eating. I'm also a strong believer in exercise to keep one healthy, 
but I still really struggle with that one -  as in getting enough exercise. I also know
 that no matter how well we take care of our bodies, something is going to go wrong
 once in awhile. Last month, I started having some shoulder pain. I didn't really
 think anything of it. It'd come and go. But then it started to get worse, especially when 
moving my arm behind me, like to put on my seat belt or when getting dressed.
The pain was mostly in the front part of my shoulder and a little down my arm. 

I saw an orthopedic doctor yesterday and had x-rays and an exam. I was diagnosed
 with rotator cuff impingement. Common in people that do a lot of overhead work 
or swimmers and pitchers (I am neither), but also common in middle-aged people.
 I'll be starting physical therapy tomorrow and I have to go 2-3 days/week for six
 weeks. I've been to physical therapy in past years for my back. It is not fun. And it
 takes up  a lot of time. I'm feeling pretty bummed about this. I also want to get acupuncture 
treatments (I'm a strong believer in holistic and non-drug treatment whenever possible) 
but Brian's insurance doesn't cover acupuncture anymore. Doesn't that figure? I love
 how these insurance companies will pay for drug treatment (don't get me started on 
Big Pharma!) but not alternative, non-harmful treatments that actually cure the problem 
instead of just masking it. Of course I know why - neither drug companies nor 
health insurance companies benefit financially. Off my soap box now...long story short,
 I found an acupuncture place that might be able to work with me on a sliding scale. 
It just might be doable. I also have some other medical tests coming up and so
does Brian, so I've been feeling a bit bummed about all this lately. But, enough of
that stuff...I do not want to dwell on the negative.

So! Now for some happy news: Jemma is hosting a Tis The Season Blog Tour 
coming up December 9-14 and I will be one of the blogs on that tour!  Each day
 will feature a different blogger - some of whom you may be familiar with; others
 may be new to you. I think it'll be fun to see different homes, pretty Christmas 
decor, perhaps some holiday recipes, and to make some new blogger friends. 

And around my home today...remember the bland cork board in my kitchen where
I wanted to do something with vintage recipes? I had thought of putting criss-cross
 ribbon on the bulletin board, but then had a better idea.

 I covered it with scrapbook paper! Much better, yes? The colors are
bright and cheery and match my kitchen. Something simple that even this
non-crafter could do!

Happy hump day, everyone. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

weekends, storms, and kitties

 What an "interesting" weekend! Started out well enough where on Friday night,
I went to a bread making home party with a friend. The bread making was 
cool...the rep milled wheat flour from fresh wheat berries and then made
whole wheat bread, focaccia bread, and cinnamon rolls, using a Bosch mixer.
We had some delicious treats! I don't know how this rep makes any money though - 
all she sells is the mills and a Bosch mixer, each around $300. She wasn't at all
 pushy and no one at the party bought anything. Saturday was a quiet day, but I got
 a phone call from my mother that night. She and my sister were traveling home
 from my great-aunt's funeral in Kentucky and my mom hit a deer that jumped out
in front of her car while they were driving on the expressway. It totaled her
car, but thank God, my mom and sister were not hurt at all. I could tell my mom
was in shock though because she was too calm while telling me the story. Sure
enough, she had a very hard day on Sunday when reality and the emotional 
aspect sunk in. She's doing fine today ~ picked up a rental car and is dealing
with the insurance company. 

And then you may have heard about the terrible storms and tornadoes we had 
here in Illinois yesterday. My area had minor damage - we were lucky. All that
 happened at my house was that a possum got stuck in my window well (don't worry,
 got him out by putting a pole down in there for him to climb out)...

and a huge branch from my neighbor's tree fell on our patio. So glad it
only hit the patio and not a window or gutters or roof!

 On to a happier, lighter subject - my cats! I haven't talked about them or posted
any pictures in awhile. These three fur babies have my heart. I'm a big animal
lover, especially of cats. I do like dogs, but not enough to have one of my own.
This is Clementine. I found her on my front porch a few summers ago. She
was scrawny and afraid of everyone. She's now fattened up (not too much ~
she does keep her figure) and has beautiful, glossy, silky fur. She's also
very sweet and now loves people. You could pet her for hours and she'd be
content. However, she doesn't like to be held. She's not a snuggler.
But, I'm working on that. ;-)

She cracks me up when she lies on the heating vents to keep warm!

Or, when she climbs into any available container - in this case, a Backgammon
game - and just makes herself at home.

 We didn't know for a couple of weeks after Clementine joined us, that
she was pregnant! She only had two babies and one was stillborn. So that
left us with one kitten. Say hello to Monkey. This sweet, but very shy boy
is huge! He is very long and quite tall. Everyone jokes that they'd love to
see his daddy since Clementine is so tiny.

 When Monkey lies on any surface - a chair, table, or a dresser - he always
hangs one leg down. Animals are so quirky and funny, aren't they?

He also sleeps in some very unusual positions.

 And then there's my Zippo. He was another kitty that was found as a stray
at my house, but a long time ago. He was about three months old when he
was found and he's now 14-1/2.

He seriously is the most affectionate, sweetest cat we have ever had or
known. We always say we wish we could clone him. He is such a snuggle
kitty. Tim sure enjoyed his cuddle time with Zippo when he was home from
school last month.

In the evening, when I'm finally relaxing in bed with a book or some
TV, Zippo will come and curl up right next to me, in the crook of 
my arm. He even sleeps under the covers with us in the winter, snuggling
right between me and Brian. What a pussycat!

 I hope your weekend was a calm, quiet one. And if you'd like to tell
me about your fur baby - or babies - I'd love to hear about them.

Friday, November 15, 2013

pretty things

 It had been awhile since we thrifted, so me and my mom met at Goodwill one
day last week and then another day, I stopped at Savers. I found a few pretty
things, including these cool champagne glasses - handpainted in Hungary.
I wasn't going to get them - I don't even like champagne - but my mom said
they'd look pretty in my china cabinet when I do vignettes with primary colors.
You should always listen to your mom, sooo...

I do not need any more Christmas decorations - in fact, last year I got
rid of a lot, but I do love unique, vintage decor and this silver-plated 
angel from Italy (made by Wm A Rogers - I have the original box, too)
with candles caught my eye.

I love the cheerful colors on this Vera Bradley recipe box. I'm not using it
for its intended purpose though. I'm using it in my room/office to hold some
scrapbooking stuff. Makes a great box for ribbon or embellishments.

The inside of the recipe box...

OK, I couldn't resist this little Christmas tree either. *Sigh*, I'm hopeless.

This is just an inexpensive lacquered tray originally from Target, but
I thought it was pretty. I could use something like this anywhere - coffee 
table, dresser, bookshelf. Would be a great catch-all for jewelry.

A young woman very near and dear to my heart - she's like a niece to me - is
expecting her first baby in February. And, she knows the baby is a boy, so I've
already started shopping for clothes! Lucky for me, she doesn't mind thrift store
clothes. Savers was having a 50% off clothing sale this past Monday, so these
Onesies were only 50 cents - $1 each. I especially love the Chicago Bears one on
the right. Rachel is originally from my area (Chicago suburbs) and now lives in
Canada with her husband, so I think she'll really like the Bears Onesie, too. I had
laundered and folded all these impossibly small Onesies and had them in a little 
stack. I showed them to Brian and said, "Is there anything cuter than a stack of
freshly washed Onesies?" Brought a smile to his face, too.

I love this unique lemonade pitcher. It has a "lip" on the top; didn't show up in
the photo. It's tall and skinny. I bet it originally came with matching glasses.

I'm doing a little fluffing in my nest today ~ I have a new friend (she's been my
yoga teacher for a couple of year now) that's stopping by this evening and
seeing my house for the first time. I also need to run some errands and
on the way, I will take a brisk walk in the State Park. I'm really trying to
keep the daily exercise in check. Sometimes I dread doing it, but I feel
good afterwards. I hope you all have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

painting and cooking

 When a local wine shop offered a painting class, I thought it'd be a fun
thing to do with some friends. And, bonus ~ the price included a glass of
wine. Well, we found out by trial and error that the class was not for amateurs.
 There was a printed sheet of instructions on what to draw (the outline) and what
 paint  colors to use, but the instructor did not show us how to do this. So, we winged
 it. We called the  instructor to our table a few times to ask questions, but let's face
 it, art takes  a lot of know-how, talent, and practice. We laughed, drank our wine,
 and did the best we could. This is my friend, Barb with our paintings.
Mine is on the left.

It was worth a try. I wouldn't mind practicing at home ~ or actually
taking an instructional class sometime.

Thankfully, I'm much better at cooking than I am painting. This was a chicken
and black bean tortilla soup that I whipped up off the top of my head. I had
posted the picture on Facebook and Jane had commented that I should put it
 on my blog with the recipe and I told her that I didn't have a recipe! I can see
 or taste a dish in my mind and create as I go. Much like an artist who can
draw or paint something from their head, that is how I sometimes cook.

Remember my great-aunt Sylvia that I talked about visiting at the end of
October and how her son - my cousin, Greg passed down her cake plate
and linens to me? And then I talked about finding one of her recipes 
in my mom's recipe box. Aunt Sylvia quietly passed away in her sleep 
on November 9th. How fitting that I had recently found one of her hand-written
 recipes recently...I knew I had to make her pork tenderloin last night.

While I was cooking, I was thinking of my great-aunt and could picture her
in her tiny kitchen, lovingly preparing this same dish for her family. I served
the pork with cheesy zucchini brown rice and sauteed green beans and yellow
 peppers. I find that rice is easy to "doctor up" according to your tastes. I simply
 cooked the rice according to package directions and stirred in shredded zucchini 
and shredded sharp cheddar cheese when the rice was done cooking. I added a
little bit of the shredded zucchini to the green bean mixture.

What creative endeavor are you naturally good at? What do you enjoy
doing but need more practice?