Wednesday, July 30, 2014

taking a break

 Hello friends ~

I'm taking a little break from blogging. Nothing is wrong, no worries. I'm just a little
 overwhelmed with projects on my to-do list and it's like all of a sudden, it's already  
August (almost) and soon summer will be over. How did that happen? 

Dare I say, I've been as busy as a bee? (Groan.)

While the weather is nice, I need to take some furniture pieces outside and paint them.
I also need to sand and paint our front door - a big project. Can't get to that if I'm sitting
inside on a computer. Which I don't want to be doing in this beautiful weather anyway.

 And, since summer is so fleeting, I also want to take some quiet time out in my yard
more often. I've been saying all summer that one morning when I don't have to be anywhere,
I'm going to take my morning coffee out on the patio and simply savor the quietness.

I'll miss you all - but I'll be back shortly!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

summer love ~ gardens

It's amazing how quickly gardens grow and change over the summer. I was just looking through old posts on my blog to see when was the last time I posted photos of the flowers, herbs, and vegetables around my house: it was June 6th in this post. So here it is six weeks later and wow, how things have changed! I hope you'll enjoy this updated tour.

I love when the tiger lilies finally bloom in the ditch in front of my house. This photo was actually taken at the beginning of July. The blooms are all pretty much faded already. It's the only thing I don't like about lilies - the blooms only last about three weeks.They sure are a nice "filler" plant though and don't require any maintenance. 

This Illinois native prairie plant (can't remember its name!) that I planted by my front walkway is so cool. I'm fascinated by it every spring and summer. It has long, arched green stems that start to develop bundles of flowers in a tissue paper-like sac.  

Each sac finally starts to break open, revealing clusters of flower buds.

And then those flowers finally burst through and explode with their beauty.

 The stepping stones leading to my patio are being overtaken by the groundcover, pachysandra. I highly recommend this groundcover for shady areas - it fills in quickly and is another no-maintenance plant. I don't think we've ever watered it in all the years its been there. It even stays green through most of the winter!

I love my little patio area but it's just a shame that we can't enjoy it more in the summer.
The mosquitoes are terrible here.

The plants in the butterfly garden are finally blooming, though the Lamb's Ear (in front) is starting to take over. Another plant that quickly takes over is Tall Garden Phlox. See the purple flowers to your right? That's Phlox overtaking the butterfly bush. I didn't even plant it there - it reseeded itself. I think I'll remove the bench in back of the garden and dig up the Phlox and plant it there. 

Here's Phlox in another spot in my backyard - where we purposely planted it. You can see it grows almost like a bush. The blooms are so pretty and make great bouquets.

Yellow Tickseed beside the Phlox...

My mom gave me this rose bush, but I admit - I know nothing about taking care of roses except that you're not supposed to get the leaves wet when watering. But I noticed the leaves are starting to get little holes in them and some white spots. Fungus? Bugs? I need to do some research - unless someone out there has any ideas.

 We always underestimate how much room veggie plants such as zucchini need to grow! These were just two small plants in the beginning. I harvested my first zucchini yesterday and it was part of a delicious dinner...I diced up the zucchini, chopped some fresh tomatoes, cut corn off the cob, and chopped a couple of cloves of garlic. Fried all that up in a little bit of olive oil, then added cooked whole wheat penne pasta to the veggies. I then added half package of Boursin herbed cheese and simmered until the cheese got melty...and then I poured in  some half and half to thin the sauce. To finish it off, I put in some chopped fresh basil.

My herb garden gone wild! Word to the wise: mint is best grown in containers. ;-)

My tomatoes are finally ripening!

 Now speaking of gardens...Brian and I had a chance to tour the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, IL this past weekend. Such a beautiful, peaceful place. Here's what makes a Japanese garden unique (taken from the AJG web site):

Three of the essential elements used to create a Japanese garden are stone, which form the structure of the landscape, water, representing life-giving force, and plants, which provide the color and changes throughout the seasons. Secondary elements include pagodas, stone lanterns, water basins, arbors and bridges. Japanese gardens are very carefully designed and patiently pruned according to aesthetic principals to create a work of natural art that inspires calm, renewal, discovery and an invigorated soul. Though most Japanese garden materials are not unusual, the way that all these basic elements are brought together and the emotions that they provoke is what makes a Japanese garden unique.

What's blooming lately in your own gardens or where you live?

Linking up with: Green Willow Pond: What We Accomplished Wednesday.

Monday, July 21, 2014


My firstborn son, Philip would've been 26 years old today. As many of you know, Phil
passed away almost five years ago at the age of 21. 

The three of us (me, Brian, and Tim) gathered for lunch and a visit to the cemetery,
where we sat in the shade and talked about memories of Phil and what he'd possibly
be doing now. Our lives will never be the same ~ our hearts will forever be torn and
scarred. But we're doing OK. The three of us are very close-knit and we also have a
lot of support from extended family and friends.

If you'd like to read more about Phil and his story, read here and here.
(Both these links have missing photos in the blog got messed up last 
year from a virus, so I apologize about that part in advance.)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

ducks, cats, and decluttering

 A weird variety of topics, I know. 

The weather here has been unseasonably cool this week. Which is fine by me ~
it's been a nice break from the heat. Though Tuesday was too chilly. I think the 
high temp was only 60 degrees. I met a couple of friends for lunch at a restaurant
on the river. We thought we'd be enjoying a warm summer day on the patio. Ha! 
We were the only ones there. And we were wearing jackets. Crazy. 

 While we were enjoying our lunch, we had a visit from Mama Duck and her babies.

 The babies were so cute! They were still kind of fuzzy.

 Speaking of fuzzy, I haven't talked about my own fur babies, nor posted any
photos in a long time. Shame on me! Clementine loves to sit on the stack of
books on this chair in the living room. I love this shot I got of her in the sunbeam.
Clem is the kitty who showed up on my doorstep four years ago.

 The two boys - Zippo (front) and Monkey - are seen here, lounging on my bed.
Can you believe Zippo is 15 years old? He sure doesn't look like it, does he? He
is still very active, eats a healthy diet, and doesn't have any health problems. He 
does struggle a bit with climbing stairs though. Like most elderly cats, it's his back 
legs. They get arthritis. He is such a love...very snuggly. He sleeps with me every night. 
Monkey is a sweet cat, but a bit neurotic. He's afraid of strangers, every little noise, and
 doesn't like to be held. Oh - and he's Clementine's baby! When Clem showed up at our
 house, she was pregnant. She only had two babies and one was stillborn.

For whatever reason, Monkey loves to sleep in the wicker basket on top of the buffet.
Sometimes he puts his paws over his eyes during the day while he's sleeping.
A built-in eye mask?

I'm still working hard at decluttering "stuff" in the storage part of my basement!
This was all the stuff I donated the other day, including the bags you see on the floor.

 All that stuff took up eight paper grocery bags plus one big trash bag.
And there's still more to do! Feels so good to get rid of excess stuff.

Happy Thursday, everyone.

Monday, July 14, 2014

weekend fun and wall decorating dilemma

Remember my friend that moved away a couple of weekends ago? We met up for
breakfast on Saturday morning. These zinnias in front of the restaurant caught my
attention. They're one of my favorite flowers.To me, they are the epitome of cheer 
 and summer and I smile whenever I see them.

On Sunday, me and my aunt spent the day in the city of Elgin, which is about 35 miles
northwest of Chicago, on the Fox River. We walked around the downtown area, going
into different shops (spent a lot of time in a bookstore!) and having lunch in one of
those American pub-type restaurants.

 One of the shops we went into was Retro A Go-Go, which carries cool things from the 
1940's - 1970's. It was a lot of fun to look around.

The only thing I bought was this Snoopy jelly glass for Brian ~ he loves the
Peanuts, especially Snoopy.

Moving on to household stuff...I had showed you all how I put a shadow box on
the wall space beside the front door. I decided after I hung the shadow box
up, that I didn't like it in that space after all.

So, I played around and here's the new look I decided on. I'm not 100% satisfied
with this arrangement either, but it'll do for now. I at least like it better than the shadow
box. My "Big Plan" for this area anyway is to get rid of the console table and utilize
a storage bench instead - the kind you can sit on to take your shoes on and off.
 Then, I'd like to hang a long piece of reclaimed wood on the wall and add different 
kinds of hooks and knobs on it to make a coat rack.

All items were things I had on-hand and all were thrifted.

The fireplace wall is driving me crazy. I've had two black and white pictures hanging
there for over a year. I never did like them. They're not my taste. My cousin had 
purchased them for me, thinking I'd like them and that they'd be perfect for the
fireplace wall. Well, I guess they are in regards to size and fit. But they're too stark
and modern for my taste and decor; plus the photos don't mean anything to me.
I don't have any connection to New York.

In my last post, I had showed you the picture of the mirror that I thought might look
nice over the fireplace, but I wasn't sure if it'd be big enough. I had Brian hold it
up while I took a couple of pictures.

Poor guy, lol.

Whaddya think? Too small, isn't it?

But I don't want to hang those black and white pictures back up! And Brian
wants to keep the mirror because he really likes it. He said, "Surely we can
use it somewhere!" Ever feel like ripping an entire room apart and starting
all over again?!