Friday, June 27, 2014

yummy summer eats

 I love to cook but not so much in the summer when the temps are in the 80's and 90's
and the humidity makes my hair look like I stuck my finger in an electric socket.
No one wants to be standing over a hot stove or turning on an oven in that kind
of weather. And I don't know about you, but I'm not big on Crockpot foods in the summer
either. Hot meat-laden dishes just don't do it for me.

So one thing I rely on in the summer are salads. I made this one up last night
and it was delicious! I could've eaten it as my main meal, but hubby it's not
quite enough for my hubby, so I made BLT sandwiches, too. 

Early in the day when it was cooler, I boiled a pot of pasta, drained, and ran
cold water over the noodles until they were cool. I drained them well, then put
them in a big bowl. In the meantime, I also roasted a pan of veggies. Again, you
can do this in the early morning before it gets too hot. And you can roast
whatever kind of veggies you and your family like: onions, peppers, zucchini,
yellow squash, fennel, mushrooms. All I had on-hand was red and yellow peppers
and onions, so that's what I used. Let the veggies cool down, then add to the pasta
 in the bowl. I then added halved chopped grape tomatoes and kalamata olives.
 Artichoke hearts would be good, too. At this point, you could also add chunks of
 mozzarella cheese or any diced meat or tofu. Good way to use what you have leftover 
in the fridge! I then used a jarred pesto sauce (you can make your own and I usually do
 in the summer, but my basil isn't prolific enough yet to make a batch of pesto) to cover 
the pasta and veggies.

Another thing I made yesterday was a big batch of hummus. I found the recipe
 here - on Inspired Taste.   It's a tasty, nutritious snack when served with raw
 veggies and pita chips. And no heating up the  kitchen! If you can't find tahini 
in your supermarket, a good substitute is peanut butter. It won't quite taste like 
authentic hummus since tahini is made from  sesame seeds, but it's a close match
 and actually gives the hummus a unique (in a good way!) flavor. I like to spread the
 hummus on a plate, sprinkle with  paprika, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

 Happy eats and happy weekend!

Sharing these recipes with The Homesteading Hippy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

egg cups and prosperity hens

 Our neighborhood is pretty much cleaned up from that bad storm we had this
past weekend. That was the longest we've ever gone without electricity - 23 
hours - and definitely not something I'd like to repeat. We have a private well
that provides our water so we couldn't even shower or flush the toilets.
I'm just thankful that our house wasn't damaged and that we remained safe.
That's really all that counts.

Back on my post of June 16th where Brian and I spent the day in Evanston,
I wrote about finding a couple of egg cups in my favorite shop, Secret Treasures.
I only showed them in the display case in the store, so I thought I'd show you
a close-up of each one. I love the details of the chicks and musical notes on this
cup that's made in Japan...I also really like the scalloped edges.

 This one got to me simply because it's an owl (and it's made in England). 
The store clerk that was wrapping this up for me asked if I bought it because I 
loved owls or egg cups and I told him, "both". He said his mom has "owl everything" 
 at their house...figurines, dishes, cups, towels. I told him that was even too
much owl stuff for me! Reminds me of the goose craze back in the late 80's
and early 90's. Aack, never again!

 This cup was a recent find at Goodwill - another one made in Japan. I really like 
the teal color inside. And it was only 49 cents.

 Have you ever heard of or seen prosperity hens? I hadn't until I saw them hanging
in a friend's house next to her kitchen door.

They're made in Northern India and they're recognized as a symbol of prosperity.
They're made using scraps of bright fabric, colorful glass beads, silver embellishments,
and hand-formed bronze bells. It's a tradition to place them near doorways to 
"invite good fortune into the home". I simply like them for their color and detail.

It was hard to get a good shot of the entire strand...but here they are hung by my
back kitchen door. 

Happy Hump Day, everyone! 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

bad storms and the appreciation of electricity

We've been deluged with rain and thunderstorms here in northern Illinois for the past
two weeks. While it's been more of a nuisance than anything else (limited yard work due
to the constant rain, barrage of mosquitoes, and humidity so thick that you could cut
it with a knife), yesterday was a different story. It was mostly overcast but the sun came
out here and there. I helped a friend pack her kitchen items for her big move next
weekend and then we went out to a late lunch. When we got out to her car, we saw from
the raindrops on the car that it had obviously rained while we were in the restaurant. But
the sun was already out again. Again, passing storms - no big deal.

I got home and was busy doing things around the house, so I didn't notice that the
sky was turning black. Brian arrived home from work and told me there was a tornado
warning! We headed down to the basement and a minute later we could hear the torrential
rains and wind whipping everything around. We even heard a couple of loud crashes.
It was over in just 1/2 hour and we headed upstairs and outside to see what had
happened. Huge tree limbs were down all over neighbor's yards and the street.

Just two doors down and across the street, a massive tree fell on the power

My next-door neighbor's maple tree cracked and fell across his back yard. It just
missed his house.

The only damage in our yard was my overturned planter...

and more plants and my vintage window blown over.

The worst part was, the power went out. All us neighbors stayed outside talking
to each other late into the night until it was time to go to bed. However, my phone
was losing power and I needed to charge it up, so I got in my car and took a long
drive with my phone plugged into the car charger. It was almost midnight and very
foggy outside when my phone was still only at 38% power and I said to myself, 
"forget it" and went home and tried to sleep. With it being hot and sticky outside
and not even a fan to keep us cool, needless to say, we only caught bits and pieces
of sleep during the night.

This morning - still no power. Brian went off to work and I cleaned up fallen branches
all over the yard, swept off the porch and sidewalk, and bailed water out of the sump
pump. Neighbors gathered in the street again and one passed out bottles of cold water
while we all commiserated together (after all, misery loves company!) and watched
the work crew cut the fallen tree out of the electrical lines.

I then spent the rest of the day at my friend's air-conditioned house until I heard
our power was back on - almost 24 hours. I'm now back at home and Brian just got
home from work. We now have to go through our fridge and freezer and see if any
food can be salvaged. All in all, even though I'm exhausted, I am thankful that my
house didn't suffer any damage and that our basement didn't flood. We've been 
through that nightmare twice in the past few years and I never want to go through
it again! Onwards and upwards... 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

a little switcheroo ~ and tree trimming

My living room makes furniture placement difficult. I don't have a foyer, so you walk
right into the room. And the only windows are "right there". On the other side of the 
windows, there's an angled wall with a fireplace. Previously, I had a little black chair and
 my grandma's round vintage table in front of the window.

 I kept staring at the window space thinking it needed something more in the middle.
Then it hit me yesterday that what it needed was height. So I grabbed a stool from the
kitchen and placed a big spider plant on it. Much better, I think.

 And then I put Grandma's table where the stool used to be.

 It's a hot and steamy week here in northern Illinois. In fact, the rain is falling and
thunder booming as I type this. We had our neighbor's mulberry tree trimmed back to
her property line early this morning before the storms came in. Monkey-man got it 
all done just in time. And I was able to use the leaf blower to get all the fallen mulberries
(man, those things are messy!) off the patio and move the patio furniture back into place.

So much better. Now all those nasty mulberries won't be falling all over our
patio, plants, roof and gutters. We'd been dealing with that mess for years.
Couldn't even use our patio because it rained tons of mulberries every day ~
and then they'd rot and stink and then the flies would have a field day. Not to mention
how the berries would clog the gutters and start to damage our roof.

Monday, June 16, 2014

a most wonderful weekend

I'm still floating from an amazing weekend. Brian had the weekend off work, which
is a rarity. We spent the entire day on Saturday in Evanston - a beautiful Chicago 
suburb right on Lake Michigan. It's the town Brian grew up in. I sometimes say I'd love
to live in Evanston - that maybe when Brian retires we could buy a condo in one of the
 vintage buildings with the stunning architecture. It's a town filled with old, beautiful
 mansions, parks along the lakefront, restaurants of every kind of ethnic food you
 could imagine, all kinds of unique shops, and has a rich cultural arts community. 
However, the real estate is quite pricey and the property taxes are ridiculous. Plus, I think 
that  living in a busy, crowded suburb - no matter how beautiful it is - would quickly get 
old for me. I do love the (relative) quietness of living in a small, rural suburb.

One of my favorite stores - a must-stop when we go to Evanston - is Secret Treasures.
It's a small shop, but filled to the brim with all kinds of vintage goodies: furniture, 
jewelry, dishes, kitchenware, jadite, McCoy pieces, Bakelite flatware, Depression
glass, ephemera, books, and linens. You'd think a privately-owned shop in an expensive
suburb would have high prices, but not this shop. The owner's prices are very
reasonable. This is the place that I bought my butler's table from a couple of years ago.

I did buy two egg cups ~  the one on the top shelf with the pink crimped edges
(made in Japan) and the little owl one (made in England) next to it.

After we were done shopping, we had lunch at an Indian restaurant.
The lunch buffet had an amazing selection of food: Dal Makhani, Palak
Paneer, Tandoori Chicken, Samosas, Vegetable Jalfrajee, Catfish Curry,
and some kind of goat dish. I tried a little bit of everything except for the
catfish and goat dishes (I don't eat either). And a basket of fresh, homemade
naan bread was brought to the table to mop up all the delicious curry sauce.

 A beautiful afternoon after a filling lunch called for walking around the downtown
 Evanston area. We came upon this huge library and I just had to go in and take a look.

There were four levels of books, movies, and music.

They even have an entire room dedicated to books that are for sale
(50 cents each). I told Brian that if I lived in that area, I could easily spend an
entire day in that library. And then I'd be coming home with piles of books that
I'd never even have time to read.

We then wandered down to our favorite lakefront park, spread out a quilt in the grass,
 and laid in the  shade, reading and half-dozing. We could hear the lap of the gentle waves
against the rocks and the cries of the seagulls overhead. I've always admired the beauty
 and expanse of Lake Michigan and how the sky and water melt into one expanse of
 blue on the horizon. Maybe that's why I gravitate towards these colors in my decorating.

Our last stop in Evanston was Brian's childhood home. His dad sold the property
last year and it's now being torn down and rebuilt. It was really bittersweet for Brian
to see his family home in the middle of demolition. As we were walking around the
property, I spied something in the overgrown foliage in front of the house. It was their
family house sign that Brian's dad had made in 1973 when they moved into the house.
I am so thankful that I found and rescued this sign. We brought it home with us and 
I'm thinking of making a small gallery wall in Tim's room with this sign and some old
family photos. 

Our trip home wouldn't have been complete without a stop at Kaufman's Deli 
in Skokie. I lived with my family in Skokie in my late teenage years - early 20's, 
right before Brian and I got married. Kaufman's has been around "forever" and has
always been Skokie's go-to Jewish deli for corned beef, lox and bagels. 

Guess it's a good thing we don't live close to this place anymore, because their
meat prices are crazy! There's nothing like authentic kosher corned beef, but at
$14.29/lb. (the lean kind), we can only afford to indulge in this the 2-3 times/year
that we happen to visit. 

Tim came home late Saturday night, so since I had both my men at home all day
on Sunday, I did a lot of cooking. For a late breakfast, I made an indulgent dish ~
sausage gravy to be served over biscuits. Instead of buying a roll of pork sausage,
I made my own. Grocery store pork sausage in the plastic roll is filled with a lot
of nasty stuff - MSG, BHT, propyl gallate, and a ton of sodium. So I simply took a 
pound of ground pork and browned it with salt, pepper, paprika, ground cloves,
a lot of ground sage, and a little bit of pure maple syrup. For the gravy, I added 1/4
cup of flour to the meat and stirred for a minute, then slowly added two cups of
milk until thickened. 

Father's Day dinner was marinated, grilled pork tenderloin, grilled potato and onion
packets, and orzo veggie salad.  I was so full from indulging in too much rich food
and meat all weekend (I usually eat mostly vegetarian), that I only ate a few bites
of potatoes and orzo salad for dinner.

After dinner, we stayed around the table and had wine and beer (wine for me;
beer for the boys) and played cards and just enjoyed each other's company.
Tim had written Brian the most heartfelt note for Father's Day which made Brian
cry - and in turn, made me and Tim cry, too - but it was all good. Tim naturally went
through a really hard time after his brother (my oldest son, Phil) passed away almost
five years ago. With Tim being away at school and being on his own and the natural
passage of time, Tim has really grown up and matured. It makes a parent proud when
you realize your child finally "gets it". I am thankful that we have such a close, open,
honest, loving relationship with Tim. These handsome, wonderful men are the loves
of my life. :-)

Today is back to the usual ~ housework, laundry, watering all the outside
flowers and plants, and going to physical therapy. No cooking!

Happy Monday, everyone. Thanks for your visit.

Monday, June 9, 2014

antiquing and thrifting fever!

Hello everyone ~ hope you had a wonderful weekend! Mine was filled with antiquing,
thrifting, church, time spent with family, and having lunch out with my hubby. In other
words, it was pretty much a perfect weekend. 

Me, my aunt, and uncle spent the day on Saturday exploring a couple of antique and
thrift shops that we'd never been to before. We all came home with some 
wonderful treasures.

 This first shop we went into was a newer shop and very well organized.

 I bought a vintage rose picture...

 and a cut glass salt and pepper shaker. It was the red tops that got to me.
The milk glass piece was a thrifted find from a few weeks ago.

 Walking down the street, we came upon this beautiful, huge house filled with
antiques from attic to basement.

 Loved the wooden staircase in this house!

I found milk glass spice jars with two of my favorite kitchen colors - blue and red.

I have them displayed on a shelf in my kitchen. See the two blue colbalt cups
on the little shelf on the right? Those were an antique mall find (there's two more in
the set) when I was out with my mom a couple of weeks ago.

 My other find in the house full of antiques was this Paden City Pottery platter with
a matching creamer and sugar. I loved the colors and the flowers. I got it for 50% off
 as there's a tiny chip on the back of the platter and a hairline crack in the creamer.

 Walking around the little town we were in (which I had never been to), we also found
a great thrift shop. I found a Bodum tea pot with infuser...

the cutest plate with two farm girls feeding chickens...

and three little glass bottles with wire wrapping. I also found (not pictured) two designer
polo-type shirts for Brian (Tommy Hilfiger and Aeropostale) for only $2.49 each and a 
Brita water pitcher for $3 that looked barely used (and ours had just broke!). Perfect
timing, as I really didn't want to spend $30 on a new one.  

 One last recent find ~ this beautiful table from a private seller on a local Facebook
page. I have it sitting in my bathroom until I have time to get it outside and paint it.
I'm thinking of painting it a pale yellow. 

Thanks for visiting and for all your kind comments. They mean so much to
me. Happy Monday!