Tuesday, December 31, 2013

looking back on 2013

 Well, here we are. The last day of 2013. Do you stay in for New Year's Eve,
or do you go out? We usually stay in - and tonight's no exception. Brian worked
all day and has to get up at 4:15 a.m. for work again tomorrow. Plus, it's 
snowing again. Worrying about intoxicated drivers is bad enough on New
Year's Eve, but add snow to that and it's even worse. We had take-out Chinese
food for dinner, played a few rounds of Backgammon, and now we're going
to watch a little TV. Not much different than any other night at home. Though
I may have a glass of wine later, big party animal that I am.

I went through my 2013 daily planner and was looking at all the little things
~ and big things ~ that made up my year. Have you ever done this? It's
kind of cool to see your year in review, though sometimes painful too, if
there was a serious illness, accident, or death. I found that my life was made
up of a lot of "little" moments with friends and family - lots of talk over meals
out or just meeting for coffee or thrifting. There were day trips with Brian,
walks in the State Park, a concert, two art classes, a baby shower, an 80th
birthday party, my first blog conference, trying out for The Family Feud,

(Me and Jane)

There wasn't a big vacation, but I did have four weekends away ~ one with
a couple of church friends for a women's conference downstate; another
with one of my best friends to her son's college in Iowa; and then two weekends
away with Brian - to Cedarburg, Wisconsin and St. Joseph, Michigan.

(St. Joseph, MI)
Tim moved out and started university in August.

Our house was a little worse for the wear this year with having to replace
the water softener, water heater, stove, and dishwasher; and having 
furnace problems, missing shingles off the roof, a broken toilet, and 
lots of plumbing problems (which are still ongoing!).

 And then there were those loved ones that left this earth: my sister-in-law, Colleen
in March; my best friend's father in May; my grandpa in October; and my
great-aunt in November. May they all rest in peace. 

(Grandpa Herbie)

I shared my life with you all in 140 blog posts this year. I want to thank you
all for reading my little blog and being so kind and supportive. May 2014
bring us all abundant blessings of wellness, love, and peace in our hearts.

(Zippo and Monkey resting on my bed this afternoon)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

the aftermath

Christmas has come and gone once again. I'm more grateful for the gone part.
I never was a big fan of Christmas. It's not only the excessive commercialism;
it's also the unrealistic expectations...finding the perfect gifts, decorating your
house just so, sending out Christmas cards on time (I only sent out a few this
year - one thing I did cut back on), baking all kinds of cookies for neighbors 
and relatives, hoping once again for a Norman Rockwell-like Christmas ~ and
 knowing full well that it's not going to happen. And then there's thinking of those
who have left us ~ my son, my father, my grandfather, my sister-in-law, my
great-aunt and uncle, a dear friend. Not that I don't always think of those people,
but the holidays somehow make your heart ache for them just a little bit more.

Don't get me wrong - I did enjoy the time spent with family. We went out to
dinner on Christmas Eve with Brian's side of the family. And on Christmas
day, the three of us - or, should I say, the six of us because there's the three
kitties that were in the thick of gift opening, too - enjoyed exchanging
gifts and relaxing and talking in the living room.

The best part of Christmas day was later in the afternoon when we had
a small bunch of family at our house. Lots of talking, laughing, eating (look
at all those desserts! My mom is the homemade pie maker), and Wii playing.

Now that it's all over, I've taken down all the decorations (which I still have to pack
up - they're all sitting downstairs on the bar), have deep cleaned, and am trying
to put the house back together. I can never remember how I had things arranged
BC (before Christmas). You'd think that after all these years I would learn my 
lesson. That I'd take pictures of the living room and kitchen BC to remind myself
where all the tchotchkes went. And since the weather isn't frigid right now, I've
been taking daily walks. Even though I don't like winter, I do see the beauty in
the bare branches, the gorgeous sunsets, and the snow blanketing the ground.

  • We're having a heat wave today with temps around 40 and lots of sunshine. It'll be the last day for awhile that I can enjoy the walks outdoors, as the frigid air kicks back in on Sunday night with temps below zero.
  • Tim is going back home today. I loved having my boy back home again, even if just for a short while. 
  • Brian's had some days off, so he's been painting Tim's bedroom and I'm working on  decluttering in the basement. I made a lot of headway yesterday and have six bags of things packed up for donation.
  • I've eaten way too many rich foods and sugary desserts, so it's back to clean eating. I made a pot of turkey noodle soup using the leftover turkey carcass from Christmas for a rich stock as the base, but I don't like turkey! So, I will save some of this soup in the fridge for Brian and send the rest home with Tim today. And then I will make a pot of fennel and carrot soup, which is a vegan recipe that I got from a friend. If it turns out delicious, I will post photos and the recipe later in the week.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

celebrations, winter, ready or not

 My lovely Aunt Mary turned 80 last week and we were delighted to help
her celebrate this milestone. I have such wonderful childhood memories
with Aunt Mary. Remember back in the day when cars were huge and
seat belts weren't required? Actually, cars didn't even have seat belts
back then. I used to ride in Aunt Mary's car and sit on the fold-down arm
rest in the front seat so I could be right next to her. I called it the "Easter
seat." I have no idea why. I'll have to remember to ask her about this. Aunt
Mary introduced me to Mad Libs - and actually played them with me. She also
let me color with permanent markers. There was no such thing as washable
 markers back in the late 60's. And when I took Aunt Mary's black and white teddy
 bear off her bed because I wanted to keep him as my own, Aunt Mary let me.

 We celebrated another birthday last night - Tim's! He turned 23 a few days ago
but was still at school. So now that he's back at home again, we took him out
to dinner. He chose a nearby Irish pub - Middleton's. I had a turkey panini but
it was rather rich with some blue cheese and a cranberry mayo on it. I also had
some sweet potato tater tots. I should've known better than to eat that much
rich food - I felt sick all evening and even up until I went to bed.

 I didn't sleep well last night - was up most of the night because Tim was out
with some friends and it was sleeting and snowing. I was worried about Tim
getting home safely. So between the overly-rich food and no sleep, I got up this
morning with a massive migraine. I was so sick all day and spent some time
reading while snuggled under a quilt. Love when my kitties join me.

Good day to stay indoors anyway when the weather looks like this. It'll definitely
be a white Christmas here in northern Illinois.

 Turns out that my sister, brother-in-law, and two nieces will be coming over on
Christmas day, as well as my mom and cousin. I only have a small table in my
kitchen and no dining room, so I think we'll move the 6 foot long table in the
basement into the kitchen. We'll make do somehow.

I have to pick up a few last minute items at the grocery store tomorrow before
I go to physical therapy (my shoulder is doing so much better!), then I might make
one more batch of cookies. I don't know what's going on with my cookie karma
this year, but I've ruined three batches of cookies. Those mexican hot chocolate
cookies that I featured a few weeks ago turned out terrible. They were really
dry. I made them last year and they were fine, so I'm wondering if it was the
butter. Some say there are differences in generic butter versus the more
expensive butters, such as Kerrygold or Cabot's. They have a higher butterfat
percentage. Generic butter has a higher water content. (Moreso than say,
Land O Lakes? I'm not sure. Need to do more research.) I also made a
chocolate cookie with peppermint crunch pieces in it - sounds good, but they
weren't. Hope the birds and squirrels liked them. And...today I went to bake
a batch of M&M cookies and I burned them.

Are you all done with everything...shopping, wrapping, baking?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

this and that - just some chat

I have met some wonderful people through blogging, and one of those
persons is Penny from At Home in English Valley. We met last Friday morning
 for breakfast and sat and  talked for 3-1/2 hours! We never did make it across
 the street to Goodwill for thrifting like we had planned. Penny gifted me with
 some lovely Christmas goodies (including a crocheted washcloth that is the
 softest washcloth I have ever used) and in true Penny-fashion, wrapped them 
so beautifully  that I didn't even want to open the package at first. The Noel ornament
 on the package? She made  that. Non-crafty me sticks presents in a typical
 store-bought gift bag and calls it a day.

Another friend of mine had some girlfriends over to her house on Saturday
night. We ate too much, laughed a lot, drank some wine, and played
cards for several hours. I was hesitant to go at first - felt I just wanted to
stay home in my pajamas and do the usual: watch a little TV with Brian,
read some blogs, write an email or two, and catch up on some novel reading.
Turns out I was glad I went. Sometimes I just need a little kick in the hiney.

Naughty Monkey figured out how to jump to the top of the china cabinet!
He was bound and determined to try and get Freddy - the African Dwarf
frog that lives in the glass bowl. My aunt gave Freddy to Tim as a birthday
gift many years ago. We have lost track of time and don't remember exactly
how old Freddy is, but he's (we don't really know if it's a "he") at least 12
years old. For the past few years, every time one of Tim's friends would come
 over and see the fish bowl on Tim's dresser, they'd say, "You still have that frog?" 
Freddy simply lives in a bowl of water with seashells at the bottom.
We feed him a pinch of Goldfish food every two days. I had no idea where
to put Freddy after Monkey's little escapade. I tried a shelf on the ladder
bookcase in the living room...Monkey scaled the shelves. Now Freddy is
on top of the almost-8 feet tall bookcase in the downstairs family room. There
is no other piece of furniture close to this bookcase that Monkey can use as
a launching pad, so I think Freddy will be safe once again. Besides, the top
of this bookcase is so close to the ceiling, that Monkey couldn't even fit at the
top of the bookcase even if he could jump up there.

Tim was just home for 24 hours. He wanted to come for a quick visit to
see us and some friends. He was sitting on the counter last night and I
asked if I could take his picture and he made this goofy face. I love my
boy. I can't believe he'll be 23 years old on Thursday. We watched some
Christmas cartoons last night and talked while he chowed on some good
home cooking. Then he was off to visit with some friends. He slept in
late today, got up and made himself some eggs and bacon, and then was
off again. I always feel a little heartbroken all over again when he leaves,
but a gentle and relaxing yoga class tonight was just what I needed. Tim
will be back again on Sunday and will be staying through Christmas and
hopefully, a little beyond. His classes don't start again until January 13, but
he's hoping to pick up some more work hours in the meantime.

Happy Tuesday-almost-Wednesday. Sleep well and sweet dreams.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

'tis the season blog tour - i'm up!

If you've been following Jemma's 'Tis the Season Blog Tour and visiting
the lineup of wonderful blogger's homes each day, then you will know that
my home is one of the tours for day four. So, welcome to Comfy House!
 Wipe that snow off your feet and come on in before you freeze!

I hope the fire warms you up a bit while you look around my living room. I went
with themes of red and gold and natural items for this room...


After our son, Philip passed away in September 2009, we lost our desire to
 put up a Christmas tree anymore. Our other son, Tim agreed with us. And
now that Tim is away at university and it's just Brian and I in the house, we
especially don't feel the need (or want) of a big Christmas tree. We found
a small tabletop tree and decorate it with some of the boy's ornaments that
we gave them every year as they were growing up. I still buy an ornament
for Tim every year. Someday, when he has his own home and a family, I
hope that he will especially treasure his collection of ornaments. And perhaps
he'll want Phil's ornaments, too. 

Let me show you into the kitchen where I used touches of red and white...

Coffee...would you like a cup?

 Or, perhaps you prefer hot cocoa. I have a batch of homemade mix. The Bailey's 
makes it even better. ;-) Maybe you'd rather have a cup of tea and that's fine, too.
 I have a motley assortment.

 I've been baking Christmas goodies so please have a cookie or a slice
of cranberry cake with carmelized pecan topping to go with your cuppa.

 The living room and kitchen are the two rooms where I did the most decorating.
But come on down the hallway and I'll show you the little bits I did in other rooms.

 The hallway bathroom shelves got just a few touches - a silver angel,
a bottle brush tree, and a glass jar filled with colorful ornaments that
match the towel and artwork on the opposite bathroom wall.

 I don't decorate our bedroom for Christmas, so I simply added a candle
and a vintage sleigh filled with blue ornaments on top of the secretary desk.

Across the hallway in my office, I decorated the top of the dresser with my
snowmen collection. The red chair with the quilt? That's my blogging chair. 
This room is still a work-in-progress. Next on my list is hanging some curtains.

 Aren't these the cutest nesting dolls? I found them at Goodwill a few months ago.

 I had to add a couple of Christmas kitties to the collection on top of my bookcase...

 while a corner wall shelf welcomes a hand-carved angel, three vintage mice,
and the classic Beanie Baby Christmas bear.

Thank you so much for visiting my home - I hope you enjoyed the tour!
Please be sure to visit the other homes on the tour this week.

 Monday, December 9th

Tuesday, December 10th
Poppy of Poppy View 

Wednesday, December 11th
Sherry, Jess, and Nel of Red Rose Alley 

Thursday, December 12th
Melanie (yours truly) of Comfy House

Friday, December 13th

Saturday, December 14th
Dewena of Across the Way

Linking up this home Christmas blog tour two years later at Cozy Little House Holiday Link Up Party.