Friday, January 31, 2014

weekend chat

 Hi everyone ~ what are your plans for this weekend? I started my day off with an
early morning yoga class and a couple of errands. Tonight is mine and Brian's usual
Friday night date night. We're going out to dinner, but don't know where yet.
 We want to try something new instead of sticking with the usual mexican restaurant
 we frequent. Tomorrow I was going to see the movie, August: Osage County with
a friend, but now we're under another winter storm warning. They're saying that
we're to get 6-10" of snow. Waah! We still have a lot left on the ground from all
the previous snowfalls. It's already piled up around my little front porch. Brian
has to work tomorrow, so I always worry about him driving home in a snowstorm.

 And then how about the Super Bowl? Are you going to watch it?
Brian's a football fan, but I'm not. So I'll make up some yummy snacks and
I'll sit in front of the TV with Brian, but I'll be on my laptop or reading instead
of watching the game. I love the commercials though, and am looking forward
to the halftime show: Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Speaking of Superbowl snacks, one that I'm making is Ree Drummond's 
(AKA, The Pioneer Woman) Black-Eyed Pea Dip. I've made it before and
it's delicious. I'm also making tortilla roll-ups with cream cheese, green chilies,
a little salsa, shredded cheese, and Mexican seasonings.

 What are your weekend plans? Hopefully, they don't involve snow.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

sweet touches of valentine's day decor

 I've always liked Valentine's Day. It's one of those non-committal holidays ~
you're not expected to do anything for it (no big dinner, no company, no presents,
no going crazy with the decorations), but if you choose to do so, it can actually
be fun. When my kids were little, they used to get a kick out of having a heart-
shaped meatloaf for dinner and then a heart-shaped cake for dessert.
I still like putting little touches of decor around the house...

That porcelain box that says Love Letters? I've had that since I was a teenager.
I do have it filled with some of the love letters that I wrote to Brian when
we were dating.

 The framed family photo is from 2003, when we had our one and only "real" 
family vacation to Cancun, Mexico.

I found these little heart plates and bird salt and pepper shakers on sale at
Target last week.

And how cute is the matching bowl with the little bird perched on the edge?
You may remember the white metal cage I found while thrifting last week and
that I was saying I could use it for all kinds of there it sits on the
black tray filled with vintage teacups and a couple of red hearts.

Do you "celebrate" Valentine's Day in your home?

Linking up with Green Willow Pond: What We Accomplished Wednesday

Monday, January 27, 2014

bringing cheer indoors via greenery

Last week I was on the hunt for succulents. I had this idea to plant little ones in
various milk glass containers. Thought they'd be really pretty in a grouping.
But it turned out that Home Depot - where I went shopping - didn't have any 
succulents. I did find two plants that were on the clearance rack simply because
 one was in a Christmas container and the other in a football container. For $3.50
 each, I couldn't resist.

I normally repot plants on my front porch, but seeing it's -8F out there and my
porch is snow-covered, the kitchen counter had to do. Yeah, it was messy,
but I used a garbage bag to contain most of the dirt. The rest was easily
vacuumed up.

When you put a grouping of plants in front of a sunny window, it adds
just the right amount of cheer to a room. And who doesn't need that when
all you see outside is bare branches and snow-covered ground?

 It brings a teeny bit of hope to seeing greenery and flowers outside again...
eventually. Sure seems like a long way off.

A lot of schools and businesses are closed today and tomorrow because of the frigid
temperatures. Wind chills are supposed to be as low as -45F. I'm glad Tim's college
campus is closed since he walks to and from school. What are you doing on these
long, cold winter days? How are you bringing some cheer into your home?

Linking up to Cozy Little House Tweak it Tuesday

Friday, January 24, 2014

southwestern chicken and vegetable soup

 It's really depressing when you're looking at the seven day weather forecast
online and all you see is snow, gusty winds, and below zero temperatures. The
high temp on Monday is supposed to be -3 to -7. That's without the wind
chill factor. I've seen this picture going around Facebook. Sums it all up.

We've been eating a lot of homemade soup this winter. It's hearty, easy to
make, warms you up, and is great for leftovers. This past Wednesday when
 Brian and I had that spontaneous day out and we had lunch at Al's Cafe, Brian
 had a cup of Southwestern Chicken soup that was delicious. I tried it, made a 
mental note of some of the ingredients in the soup, and said, "I can make that!" 
I'm proud to say that it was even better than the restaurant's soup and that Brian
 had three servings for dinner tonight!

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
4 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 green, red, or yellow bell pepper (or any combination), diced
3 carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
64 oz. low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 – 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 – 15.5 oz. can kidney or red beans, drained and rinsed
1 small yellow squash, sliced into rounds, then sliced in half
1 c. cooked brown rice
4 c. cooked, cubed or shredded chicken
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
½ T. each cumin and chili powder
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a Dutch oven, heat extra-virgin olive oil, then add celery, onion,
peppers, and carrots. Saute for 8 minutes or until slightly tender.
Add minced garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add broth (yes, you
will need this much broth – the rice absorbs a lot of the broth) -
chicken, then add spices. Simmer on low for 1 hour.

Serve warm and savor ~

And what goes perfectly with this kind of soup than cornbread? I won't be sharing
this recipe with you because it was a new one I found by doing a simple Google
search, but it wasn't that great. My favorite cornbread recipes are made with
butter as one of the ingredients and I was all out of butter, so I searched for
recipes for cornbread using olive oil. It was "OK", but cornbread made with butter
tastes so much better.

 Enjoy your weekend and keep warm!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

spontaneity paid off

Brian got a last-minute unexpected day off today and we deliberated getting
a few things done around the house, or taking a few hours to have a fun,
relaxing afternoon. No brainer! We had lunch at Al's Cafe, a restaurant in a 1892
building that was once a millinery, offices, an appliance store, and a radio repair
business. When we walked in, the hostess led us upstairs, as the downstairs
 area was already packed. We were amazed that we had the whole floor to
 ourselves and that the space was so charming and beautiful.

While we were waiting for the waiter to bring our drinks, we walked around,
admiring the vintage books and decor...

Swooning over these windows, curtains, and chandelier...

 After a delicious lunch of homemade soup and sandwiches, we walked to
Elgin Books ~ an independent, used bookstore. I could've spent hours in 
this store. There was this light-filled room with some tables right next to the
little coffee bar (which, to me, if there could actually be a bonus to a used
bookstore, it's that they have good coffee, too)...

A long hallway with stacks of books...

 and nooks and crannies filled with even more books! I am definitely going
back when I have more time.

 I had brought in a couple of bags of books for book credit ~ and while the owner
didn't give a lot of credit for the books, we still came home with four new-to-us
books for "free". While walking back to our car, we saw these two hand-painted
murals on the sides of buildings and I thought they were really cool. Couldn't
tell you the meaning or stories behind these murals though. I'll have to do a Google
search and see if I can find anything.

So glad he had the day off and that we were spontaneous. 

Have you done anything offhand lately, for which you were grateful for


Monday, January 20, 2014

monday goings-on and thrifty stuff

 Hello friends, how was your weekend? Mine was busy. We've been looking
for a car for Tim and you know how that goes. Car shopping is stressful. The
very old Honda Tim had been driving finally bit the dust. Non-repairable. I'm almost
glad, in a way. We all had poured way too much money into that car to keep it
maintained. Seemed something else was wrong with it every week. There's a
local, privately-owned used car dealer that we've been working with. We like
 to support small, local shops if we can. These people have been residents of
our town for many years and they've had a reputable business for many years,
too. Tim bought his first vehicle (a pick-up truck) from them years ago. Their
pricing is very fair. We test-drove a couple of cars in a snowstorm on Saturday
and we're test-driving a couple more cars later this week.

I found a little time for thrifting this weekend, too. I really love this decorative
piece that was originally from HomeGoods ($20 price tag on the bottom - I got
it for $2.99). It was filled with autumn decor...that bowl-filler stuff with pine
cones and seed pods. I put those in a separate bag and stored away with
my fall decor things. I don't know what I'm going to do with this yet; I'll have to
play with it. But I can picture a small plant or bird's nest and a bird for spring.

I also found a bag of seven little vintage books for $1.99. I love sweet little
vintage books like this...the artwork in them is lovely and they contain
beautiful poems and sayings. They also look pretty stacked on a shelf
or used in a vignette.

Have you ever heard of this magazine? One is from 2004 and the other 2005.
I don't remember this publication. I thumbed through them and it looked like
there were some good decorating ideas and articles. For 29 cents each, I
figured I couldn't go wrong.

I love bracelets. This colorful wooden beaded one was only 99 cents.

 I'm always on the lookout for inexpensive, pretty, ceramic planters. They're
so expensive in retail stores! I love the color and the flowers on this one.

Speaking of plants, I stopped at Home Depot today, hoping to buy a couple of
tiny succulents. I have a few deeper milk glass pieces that I wanted to use as
planters. But Home Depot didn't have any succulents - nary a one! I was 
surprised. They used to carry a nice selection. I did find a couple of house 
plants on clearance though, simply because one was in a Christmas container
and the other in a football-shaped pot. More on that in another post! 
Happy Monday, everyone.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

finding the little joys

 I'll be honest ~ this new year hasn't started out so well. Due to privacy issues,
I can't say a lot, but suffice it to say, there's been a lot of worrying and anxiety
going on. I know that worrying doesn't get me anywhere and I try so many things
to let go of that worry and anxiety ~ including prayer ~ but, sometimes it just really
sucks me in. I know I'm not alone in this. Everyone has problems and worries.
Financial troubles, marital problems, illness (physical and mental), addictions,
 death, problems with kids, stressful jobs, lack of employment, cars breaking 
down...the list goes on and on.

I think one that that helps is looking for the little everyday joys in life. They are 
there if we really look. We all know about keeping a gratitude  journal, but I 
prefer to capture these little joys in images instead.

I was out with a friend yesterday (oh ~ that was definitely a mood lifter, too!) and
we stopped at Trader Joes. I love their $3.99 bouquet of flowers. I put them
on the kitchen table...

a few on a stool beside my desk...

the purple ones went in my bathroom...

and a few more went in the main bath.

 My favorite British print publications...

Coffee at an independent coffee shop...

The beautiful green eyes of my neighbor-friend's cat, Aura...

 Some of my houseplants in a sunbeam...

And, standing in awe of a beautiful winter sunset outside a bedroom window.

 What little things have brought you moments of joy lately?