Friday, November 28, 2014

celebrations and shopping

This was the first year that I didn't take many photos of our Thanksgiving day celebration.
I managed to get a photo of the food spread after all the dishes were dug into - not very
appealing! But wow, did we ever have a spread at my sister's house: tortilla roll-ups,
 deviled eggs, and chips and salsa for appetizers; then turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed
 potatoes, sweet potatoes with  a maple syrup glaze, fruit salad, corn casserole, 
roasted Brussels sprouts with mustard vinaigrette, homemade rolls and cranberry sauce
 for dinner; and homemade pumpkin pie, brownies, and cookies for dessert. *groan*

I managed to sneak a photo of my niece getting her hair braided by her friend.
Four teenage girls sitting at the "kid's table" in the living room with their talking and 
giggling was so cute to hear by us adults in the dining room. When I tried several times
to take photos of the girls, they'd always turn their heads or put their hands up in front
of their face. And somehow I didn't even get a photo of my husband or son (who was
able to come home from school for a short 24-hour visit).

I did some online Black Friday shopping today (Christmas presents) and I also took down
 all of my fall decorations in prep for putting up Christmas decor. I have to drag boxes
upstairs from the basement and I'm not in any hurry, so all I managed to get done with
any Christmas decor today was to put a pillow on my couch. Ta-da! Oh - and that'd be
the latest fiction book I'm reading on the couch- Jodi Picoult's latest book, "Leaving Time".
 So far, I'm really enjoying it.

When Brian got home from work today, we had to run to Home Depot for a few
household items and I suggested we go to Old Navy and Ulta (right next door to each
other) to see their Black Friday deals - IF the stores weren't packed. We were surprised
to find that all these stores weren't any more busy than any other Friday night. Old Navy
had a huge sale where everything in the store was 50% off. All we were looking for was
pajama pants and flannel shirts for Tim. We were disappointed to find that the quality
of both of these items was terrible - the material was so thin and cheap. With the kind
of weather we have here in Illinois during the winter, warm pajama pants and flannel
shirts are a necessity. I'd rather pay a bit more for quality.

Tomorrow we'll be spending time with some friends and going to an outdoor
Christmas event - "Merry and Bright - a Downtown Holiday". Hope your weekend
plans include time for a little fun, too.

Monday, November 24, 2014

therapy, a barn sale, and moving along

I'll be honest with you, I'd been hesitating about doing a post these past couple of
weeks. My life has pretty much been consumed with physical therapy appointments every
weekday. I had mentioned in earlier posts that I was having another medical problem, but
I didn't want to get into too many details on my blog. Long story short, I have primary
lymphedema in my left arm and "they" (doctors, therapists) have no idea why. In the meantime,
I am going through lymph drainage therapy. It's not anything painful, just time consuming. And
the first five days my arm was bandaged in five layers from hand to armpit. Now I'm wearing
a compression sleeve during the day and what I call the "oven mitt" at night. Yes, it's as
uncomfortable and hot as it looks. I'm just thankful I'm having to wear these things while our
weather is cold and not in the middle of summer. I think Monkey is just as perplexed about this
contraption as I am.

So, I felt I had nothing to write about. All over Blogland, people were decorating and
crafting and sewing and cooking and remodeling - and I was doing nothing except going
to therapy and keeping the household stuff going. Reminds me of the old 70's skit from
Cheech and Chong - Sister Mary Elephant. Any of you remember that? Though my
version would be, "The first day of the week, I woke up. Then I went downtown
 to go to physical therapy. Then I went and hung out at home.The second day of the week,
 I woke up. Then I went downtown to go to physical therapy. Then I went and hung out at
home. The third day of the week...

So, life picked up a little bit this weekend and one of the fun things I got to do
was to go to a huge barn sale with a friend of mine at a place called Ginger Blossom
in the far reaches of northwest Illinois. Ginger (yes, Ginger Blossom is her real name)
travels the world and brings back tons of things to sell from her farm: furniture, rugs,
clothing, scarves, dishes, household decor, ethnic and tribal collectibles, drums,
masks, ethnic jewelry, etc.  

It was a cold, rainy, dreary day and we got wet and muddy, but we sure had lots
of fun. The pathway to the barn was lined with bare trees covered in lights.

Some of the interesting things inside the barn included these Buddhas.

I loved all the glassware from Mexico. Someday, I'd like to go back and perhaps get
a set of drinking glasses or wine glasses. They were reasonably priced, at $5 each. 

As you can see, the barn is packed from the floor to the rafters with all kinds
of goods. I really liked those baskets you see in the background, too.

The grounds had paths all around that led from one little cottage to the next,
with each cottage stuffed with goodies. My only purchase was a pretty red scarf
from India (only $5!) and then a jar of raw honey and a couple of blocks of homemade
artisan cheese from a local vendor. I told my friend that when I go to places like this,
I get shopping ADD. I get too overwhelmed by all the pretty things and stuff I like
 and then can't make a choice. 

Moving on to today, I know that this week will be a busy one for most of us in the US with
Thanksgiving being this Thursday. I did my grocery shopping this morning, then came home
to start a big pot of split pea soup. I also made cranberry-orange muffins, a pan of my
homemade granola, and a pan of roasted spiced mixed nuts.

 Snow moved in this afternoon and I spied Mr. Squirrel out my living room window enjoying
 a little snack ~ one of the last mini pumpkins I left outside for the squirrel's enjoyment. 

  Here's to a good week!

Monday, November 10, 2014

a full weekend

 Good Monday morning, friends! I hope you all had a lovely weekend.
Brian and I usually go out to dinner on Friday nights, but we decided to break out
of our little box this time and try something different. When I got an email
from a garden nursery and flower shop saying that they were hosting a wine tasting,
  I thought that'd be a fun thing to do on a Friday night. Especially since it was free!

There were wines from Washington, Spain, France, and Italy. Snacks were set out
in various places, too. Their indoor shop and greenhouses were all decked out
for Christmas. We stayed long enough just to sample some wines and food and walk
around admiring all the decor, but then we left. It was very crowded - hundreds of people -
which becomes a bit overwhelming for introverts like us.

I saw a tree like this last year at Pottery Barn - decorated with woodland

On Saturday, we took a day trip to Evanston. You've heard me talk about this town
before ~ it's the town Brian grew up in, right by Chicago. We love to explore the unique
shops, try new restaurants, and take a walk down by the lake (Lake Michigan). This time
we didn't go down to the lake due to lack of time - plus, it was quite cold! We ate lunch
at a Thai restaurant called Zoba. I had Pad Thai - which was OK. I've had much better.
Brian had the Crazy Noodles with shrimp, beef, and chicken. We ate with forks. Neither
one of us know how to use chopsticks. Tim learned when he was a kid and is still good
at using them. He's tried to teach me, but I still can't get the hang of it.

We were walking around trying to determine where to go next and I pulled out my
phone and used Yelp to find "nearby places". I clicked on shopping and a bookstore
came up. You don't have to ask me twice whether I want to go to a bookstore! All we
had to do was follow the footprints down an alley. 

 Turn a corner and there's Bookends and Beginnings. This is a "new" store ~ they took
 over what used to be Bookman's Alley. Bookman's Alley was an Evanston presence for 
over 33 years. The owner was 85 years old and closed the store due to his age, health,
and competition from online stores. Interestingly enough, the owner and this bookstore
made a presence in Audrey Niffenegger's book, The Time Traveler's Wife. You can 
read the story here  if you're interested.

I love these old buildings that are bookstores: shelves filled floor to ceiling with books...

and long aisles with scattered Oriental rugs.

This is where I spent most of my time: in the cookbook section. I was excited to find
that they had a lot of used cookbooks (at good prices) mixed in with the new. I found
out through the owner that a local man whose wife had recently passed away, donated
her cookbook collection (over 600 cookbooks!) to this store. Part of the proceeds are
being donated to a local music program for children.

Brian found the local and Chicago section and settled right in...

 Of course, our trip to Evanston wouldn't be complete without a visit to my favorite
vintage store, Secret TreasuresI found only one little treasure - which is fine since
I'm cutting down at bringing more "stuff" into my home.

This was my found treasure ~ a vintage nut grinder that still works!

 Another favorite store to browse in - Stumble and Relish.
 Even the little storefront is so inviting. This store is owned and operated
by a mother and daughter team. They have lots of unique gifts and beautiful
hand-crafted jewelry made by local artists.

Our last stop was Thee Fish Bowl pet shop to perhaps find a unique cat
toy for our kitties. The best part about going into this little store was being
able to see and pet the free-roaming animals. This is Will. He was so sweet.
I kneeled on the floor and petted and loved on him for awhile.

I don't know the name of this kitty, but I thought it was so beautiful, especially
with its golden eyes.

And this is Betty - the 70 lb. turtle from Africa. I'm kind of afraid of turtles, so I 
didn't touch her.

The weekend continued Sunday with my father-in-law and two of my sisters-in-law coming
to our house for a visit and us all going out for a meal. Father-in-law is in his early 80's and
 isn't doing too well, physically and mentally. I believe he has the beginning stages of
 dementia - and he knows it. So he wanted to talk to us about a few things before he
completely loses his memory. It's too bad he doesn't write some of these things down.

Well, that wraps up my weekend. Hope you found some time to have a little fun, too.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

bits and pieces from comfy house

More of a random, mish-mosh of a post today. I've been on the run a lot lately and
haven't gotten much accomplished at home. I've also been dealing with a medical problem
(not the rotator cuff tear, but something else) that kinda of got swept under the rug this past 
year, but now came to light again. I received a ton of info today and will be going for a 
test and some treatments all within the next few weeks, so I'm feeling a little overwhelmed
by it all. I don't want to put too much personal information out here on my blog, but if you
want to know any of the details (and I'll warn you ahead of time: it's long), just send me a
private email (link to my email is in my profile) and I will share with you.

This past weekend, a friend of ours had a Halloween party and one of the games
we played was Bingo. On this round we were playing the coverall version, where you had
to cover every square. We ran out of official tokens, so we started looking around for what
we could use as tokens. At first we were using M&Ms, but everyone ended up
 eating them! Then we got desperate and used leftover candy corn, the white tops of the
 candy corn (which look like teeth!), and then we got really desperate and my friend 
found leftover party mints from her daughter's baby shower back in January.

Tim told me he needed a new pair of glittens - that the ones he bought last year got
chewed up by Mojo - one of his roommate's cute but naughty dog. I stopped at the store
where he got his pair last year and they had tons. I'm talking baskets and baskets full. They
had regular and fleece-lined and were very reasonably priced. I think I'm going to go back
and buy a pair for myself, too. This is just one of the times I'm glad I have a smartphone. I
picked out a few pairs that I thought he would like, took a photo and sent it to him via text
 so he could choose, and got his reply. He chose the red, black, and green ones. 

I filled up the bird feeder with seed now that weather is cold. It attracts mostly sparrows
and juncos, but this gorgeous red-bellied woodpecker has been visiting everyday, too.
I grabbed my DSLR camera and was able to get a decent photo through my living room
window. I love how he has a seed in his long beak.

I made a big pan of roasted vegetables the other day. I used broccoli, cauliflower,
turnips, butternut squash, red and white onion, fennel, red and orange peppers,
carrots and parsnips, and even a few pieces of leftover celery. It's a great way to use
 up any bits of leftover veggies. I tossed them all with a little bit of extra-virgin olive oil,
salt and pepper and popped in the oven at 350 degrees F. for about 40 minutes. I
opened the oven and stirred a couple of times while the veggies were roasting. The
great thing about this is that the veggies are so versatile. You can eat as is, make a
frittata (which I did the first night for dinner), make a rice or quinoa bowl, toss with
pasta or make veggie lasagna, put in a wrap, make veggie soup, veggie enchiladas,
or vegetarian pizzas.

 For a little something sweet, I baked this delicious pumpkin and dark chocolate cake
from Better Homes and Gardens magazine. When I bake, I indulge in just a little bit, then
either freeze the rest of send with Brian to work. This bread was delicious - and not
overly sweet because I cut back on the sugar in the recipe. The recipe calls for 1-1/4 
cups - way too much. I used 3/4 cup. Unfortunately, I only had regular white sugar in my
cabinet (poison, I know). I ran out of organic coconut sugar, which I had been using in
my baking. Shoot, who am I kidding...I just need to cut way back on sugar - period!
Well, if baking urge hits you and you're looking for a good recipe, here it is:

Thanks for your visit!