Wednesday, October 29, 2014

the last few nice days

Two days ago - Monday - was probably the last nice (read: warm) day we'll have here
until next April. I decided to take advantage of it and go for a hike in a beautiful bog area
that's just an eight-minute drive from my house. If you've never walked on a boardwalk through
a bog, it's quite interesting. The path is a little shaky and wobbly since it's resting on top of 
water, so it's a little scary at first, but you get used to it. I had practically the whole place to
myself and I felt like I was transported into another world, walking through the tall grasses
and woods. I brought my new camera (the DSLR that Tim gave me) and decided to give
it a try using the automatic setting, not the manual. I previously tried the manual setting like
Tim suggested and let me tell you - my pictures were awful. I also have no idea what all those
buttons and dials and settings are for and how to use them, so I have a lot of learning to do.
And I do want to learn, because I love photography. I guess winter will be a good time to
use on-line tutorials and look at some books that I have.

At the end of my hike in a more open area, I came upon some gorgeous oak and maple
trees that still had their leaves. Most of the trees in my area - including the beautiful red
maple across the street at my neighbors house that I've showed you pictures of - have lost
all of their leaves already. 

I laid down on the grass under a big oak and daydreamed and let any stress
and worries just melt away. I almost fell asleep! How long has it been since you
laid under a tree? I highly recommend this free therapy.

This is what I don't recommend: moving furniture.

That was Sunday. I had the brilliant idea of trying to rearrange my living room.
I cleaned behind all the furniture while I was at it. The worst part was that once
I rearranged things, I didn't like how it looked, so everything needed to be moved
back to its original places. Good thing Brian was home from work by then because
I was worn out and my back was very sore. 

The daytime temperatures here are now in the 40's and 50's, but it goes down into
the low 30's at night. The extended forecast shows temps going down to 28 on Friday
night (poor kids and parents who will be trick-or-treating!) so yesterday we put my
rose bush to bed for the winter.

This photo was taken just five days ago. Yesterday, there were no blooms left at all.
Brian took dirt from our compost bin and mounded it under the bush. Next step will be
to cover it with leaves and put a wire or styrofoam cover over it. We still have a couple
of big planters with some flowers in them that are still somehow hanging on, but we
really need to dump them before we get a big freeze. I somehow feel like a plant murderer
when we have to do that. 

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

the love of vintage runs in the family

I switched a few things around in the living room again.
Here's the before with the white stool and the small chests and lots of plants.
(My plans still stand to get rid of the black and white prints and put up a big 
shelf to use as a mantle.)

I took the large vintage suitcases that I was using beside the couch...

 and stacked them where the stool and smaller chests once were.

I'm now using my grandma's table as a side table where the large suitcases were. 
The lamp base belonged to my grandma, too.

 Speaking of family and their lovely vintage things, this past weekend we
visited extended family 2-1/2 hours south of us. We all connected the past
couple of years when my great-aunt was ill. Otherwise, I hadn't seen these
family members in about 35 years. We all gathered for lunch at a restaurant, then
went to my second cousin's house for dessert and talk. I'd never been to my
cousin's house out in the country. Her dad - my great-uncle -  used to own an antique
 store (and he still sells antique furniture in a booth at a store) and I knew  she sold 
vintage items on eBay and etsy, so I wasn't surprised that her house was filled with 
beautiful antique furniture and vintage collectibles.

This was one of my favorite pieces - a library card catalog cabinet.

 Another favorite was this curio cabinet-desk. I love the curved glass of the cabinet
and the leaded glass above the desk area.

A vintage bread board was filled with pumpkins and gourds from my cousin's property
 and used as a centerpiece. 

 I don't have one favorite decorating style ~ I also like contemporary, mid-century
modern, cottage, and a little farmhouse and french country ~ but vintage will always
have my heart.

Sharing this post at Cozy Little House: Tweak it Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

comfort in a bowl ~ soup recipes for those chilly autumn nights

Day two of gloomy, gray skies and rain. Blech. I'm one of those people who's affected
by the weather both physically and mentally. Give me a sunshiny day and I'm cheerful and
motivated and full of energy. Gloomy days? Something usually hurts more than usual on
this middle-aged body and I feel lazy and blah. 

I find myself craving soup in this kind of weather. I love the process of making it, too.
There's something cathartic about mindfully chopping vegetables. Then there's the
fragrance filling the kitchen as the onions, garlic, and celery saute on the stovetop. And
finally, the whole house fills with the aroma of simmering soup. Ever walk into a house
where soup is simmering on the stove? It smells like comfort. It smells like home.

The first recipe I'm sharing with you is one of my family's favorite, tried-and-true classic
soups: Pasta E Fagioli. It's hearty and delicious, makes great leftovers, and is easy
to make. Recipe below.

  (Recipe from cookbook, Full Of Beans)

2 T. olive oil
2 oz. pancetta or bacon, minced (sub vegetarian Canadian 
bacon or omit entirely, if vegetarian)
1-1/2 c. finely chopped onion
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T. crumbled dried leaf sage or 2 tsp. chopped fresh sage
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
5 c. chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 16-oz. can Italian-style chopped tomatoes with juice
(or use plain canned chopped tomatoes & add your own Italian seasonings)
3 c. drained cooked white beans such as cannellini or Great Northern
3/4 c. small dried pasta such as ditalini or tubetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large, heavy soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta
(or bacon) and cook until the fat is rendered but not browned, about 8 minutes.
Add the onion and celery and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the
vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, sage, and red pepper flakes
and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth, tomatoes, and beans. Bring to a boil over high
heat, add the pasta, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook uncovered until the pasta
is al dente, about 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt, if necessary. (Leftovers
can be kept for a couple of days in the refrigerator and reheated, but if making the
soup ahead, don't cook the pasta until shortly before serving. It tends to absorb liquid
and become soggy as it stands.) Ladle into bowls and top with freshly grated cheese.


Another great thing about making soup is that it's so adaptable. I make up a lot of my
own recipes. Basically, if you have basic staples on-hand such as broth, vegetables
(fresh, canned, frozen), tomatoes (fresh or canned), any kind of pasta or grain, and if
you wish - some kind of protein such as beans or leftover chicken - you can make soup.

My yoga teacher mentioned last week that she made up a recipe for Mexican Chicken
Soup. I told her to tell me the basics of what she put in it - and here's what I came up
with. I love to make up my own recipes and with soup, it's easy to do so.


2 T. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 poblano peppers, coarsely chopped
1 cubanelle pepper, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
1-2 tsp cumin (start out with 1 tsp, taste - add more to your liking)
1 T. chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
5 c. chicken broth
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
1 c. frozen corn
Juice of 2 limes
Fresh cilantro

In a large, heavy soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion,
celery, poblano peppers, cubanelle pepper, and carrots. Cook over medium
heat for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are soft. Add the garlic, cumin, chili
powder, and oregano and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth, chicken, and frozen
corn and simmer, covered, for at least 30 minutes or until all the flavors come together.
Right before serving, add the juice of two limes into the pot of soup and stir. Ladle into
bowls. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

 Nom nom ~ enjoy!

Sharing with Cozy Little House - Tweak it Tuesday.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

just a few treasures ~ and the reason why

Remember how I used to frequently show you all my latest thrifting treasures?
Notice I haven't done that lately?
There's a good reason: I've only purchased a few goodies in 2-1/2 months!

Here's the few things I've found at Goodwill since the beginning of August.
(I found a beautiful light blue Laura Ashley cardigan and olive corduroy jacket
from the Gap at the local Savers right before it went out of business, but I 
normally don't take photos of clothes.)
I'm a big fan of Lisa Lill Studio handbags. She's a local Chicago designer.
This small velvet handbag will be perfect for dressier fall occasions. 

 I've been carrying this heavy cotton Lisa Lill bag this fall and love how it's
casual, sturdy, and pretty. I've gotten lots of compliments on it. There's nothing
like pretty bags ~ especially when they only cost $5!

 These lovely plates were only 99 cents each. They'll be pretty on the kitchen
table in the summer.

 Many years ago, my aunt gave me this August teacup for my birthday.
I was thrilled to find the matching plate last month!

 Of course, I couldn't pass up this cute, colorful kitty print. It's hanging in the 
main bath.

 Love these pretty teacups and saucers made by Grand Duchess Taste Setter
 by Sigma (Japan). 

 So...there's a reason I haven't been thrifting much. When you've lived in the same house
for over 24 years and you've raised two kids in that house, you accumulate a lot of stuff.
When my friend moved this summer, I saw how much stuff she had to (and wanted to) get
rid of. She said it was very freeing, and I believe it. I know how good it feels to get certain
spaces cleaned out and to let some of that clutter go. I was determined to stop bringing
in so much "stuff" and to continue decluttering ~ especially my messy basement. I just
donated 14 bags of miscellaneous household items, books, and clothing yesterday.

Here's the neighbor's maple tree today. Such beauty.

 Happy almost-weekend!

Monday, October 6, 2014

autumn goodness ~ dinners, friends, decor, and trees

Hello, friends! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I know some of you living
in southern California are still experiencing hot temperatures. I sure wish I could
usher some of our cool - okay, and downright cold a couple of nights this week -
air your way. It's now mainly in the 50's during the day with maybe a 60+ degree day
here and there. We're pulling up the down comforter at night and Zippo has started his
cold weather routine of sleeping under the covers all nestled between us for warmth.

This past Friday night, I traveled into Chicago to attend a friend's annual fall dinner
party. I didn't want to get stuck in rush hour traffic going down there, so I left early and
hung out in a little neighborhood by my friend's house. I took a nice walk and stopped 
in a couple of shops. My first stop was Gene's Sausage Shop. I didn't buy anything, but
it was fun to look around. It's two floors filled with a butcher shop, deli, bakery, and lots
of European gourmet specialty products.

They had a pretty impressive wine section, too.

I ended up spending the most time at The Book Cellar - a great little independent
book store where I explored some pretty cool cookbooks.

And then ~ an awesome fall candlelight dinner with seven amazing ladies.
The soup that my friend made was out of this world. It warmed me from my
heart to my toes. It tasted like a rich (but it's not - no cream! In fact, it's vegan
if you choose not to top with goat cheese) bowl of creamy, earthy veggies. I can't 
wait to make it at home. 

My friend shared the recipe with me and I am sharing with you:
Winter Vegetable Soup
Recipe created by Lulu Powers--Madonna’s caterer)
For 6 servings

3 T olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup peeled, cored and coarsely chopped Granny Smith apple
1 cup peeled and coarsely chopped turnip
1 cup peeled and chopped butternut squash (seeds discarded)
1 cup coarsely chopped carrot
1 cup peeled, chopped sweet potato
** I also add 1 cup golden beets, peeled and chopped
5 cups vegetable stock
¼ cup maple syrup (I use half of that)
cayenne pepper (I use 1/4 teaspoon)

 optional: 1 small baguette, 3 oz. goat cheese
optional: ¼ cup fresh chives, chopped and sprinkled on top of soup

 Heat oil in large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent.
 Add apple, turnips, squash, carrot, beet, sweet potato and sauté 5-10 minutes. Add 
stock, bring to boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Add syrup and
 cayenne peepper. Cool slightly. Puree with handheld mixer or blender.

If desired, toast slices of baguette and spread with goat cheese to float on soup.

I really do have the most awesome and talented friends. I've been adding touches
of fall decor around my house and when some of those things are handmade, they
add so much more to a home, don't they? This beautiful tea towel was made by Penny

She also gifted me with three autumn pillowcases. One was supposed to be for Tim, 
but I forgot to send it back to school with him while he was home this weekend. Oops!
As you can see, my master bedroom is done in light blue (and that is definitely going to
change in the near future - it's the next room to work on), so fall colors don't really "go"
in this room, but that's OK. I think the colors add a little warmth and "oomph" to the 
pale decor and besides, anything made by a friend deserves a very special place in
my home whether it matches or not!

I found some old Halloween lights when I was digging through my box of fall
decor, so hung those up around the fireplace...and I also added a very special
little something on my ladder bookcase. Do you see it? 

It's the cutest fall banner made by none other than Judy from 20 North Ora!

Talented and crafty Judy also makes burlap runners like this pretty bird themed one 
on my buffet. She also makes a lot of different pillows. Check out her etsy shop here.

Moving on to the kitchen...the shelves now carry a couple of cute ghosts and a
long ago thrifted autumn covered dish...

and the china cabinet got a makeover with owls and other assorted fall
goodies. The only thing "new" in this cabinet are the two little blue bird
salt and pepper shakers on the bottom shelf.

Aren't they darling? My mom was at my house one day last week and we went
to the new vintage shop in my town. This was all I bought ($4). Funds are tight and
I'm trying not to bring so much stuff into my house anymore. But these spoke to me.
Or chirped or tweeted or something like that.

Outdoor beauty...the maple tree across the street changes every single day.
I've been trying to remember to take a photo of it every day to document its progress.
From looking back at last year's photos, this tree should be at the height of its color
peek by mid-October. It turns a brilliant red, but it only lasts a few days. Next thing
you know, all the leaves are on the ground. So I'm savoring its beauty for a short while.
This is how it looks today.

And taking a walk around my neighborhood, this is a tree by a charming little house
on the next block. Not sure what kind of tree this is though. Oh - and this house is for
sale. Anyone want to move to northern Illinois and be my neighbor?

A few doors down from the house for sale - this mighty, brilliant oak.

As always, thank you for your visit and your lovely comments. They are always
appreciated and I reply on this blog to every one of them.