Wednesday, December 30, 2015

looking back on 2015

The end of the year and the beginning of a new one is always time for reflection, isn't it? I like to go back over the year's blog posts and my planner to ponder on not just the big things, but all the little moments that make up a life well-lived. 

Unfortunately, it's typical that my new year usually begins with me being sick. I think it's from all the busyness and stress of Christmas and being around so many people that time of year. I get sick a few days after Christmas and it carries into the new year. 2015 started out with me having the creeping crud, and guess what - I have some kind of virus going on right now that looks like it'll carry into 2016. Nothing major - just a sore throat, headache, and feeling foggy-tired. I'm keeping the symptoms at bay with extra vitamin C and D, the herbal supplement Allibiotic, hot herbal tea with fresh lemon and raw honey, lots of water with fresh lemon and raw, organic apple cider vinegar, and essential oils (custom blended oils to make your own Thieves Oil found here) in the diffuser.

January also started out with us having well problems and having to replace some major parts ($$) and being without water for a few days. Not a good start to 2015!

Things perked up in February when I won a giveaway from Connie at Crafty Home Cottage. Connie is so talented and artistic...I don't think there's anything this woman can't make! She sent me a beautiful banner and embroidered dishtowel and pot holder.

In March, I took a class on making your own sourdough starter, from which we made English muffins. Fun!

April brought an awards ceremony where my hard-working hubby was presented and honored with the Employee of the Year award; and in May, my beautiful niece graduated from high school.

"Miss Begonia" came to live with me in May. She was another blog win from Judy at 20 North Ora. Judy adorned her in a lovely lace dress; I adorned her with necklaces.

June was a month of summer fun with a two outdoor art fairs, a ghost tour, and a couple of outdoor concerts. It was also the month that we finally painted our bedroom walls. They had been a light blue and we chose a soft gray. In July, we also got a new mattress. My back feels so much better!

I celebrated another year of life in August, and in September, Brian and I celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary.

More work was done in the master bedroom - this time, old carpet was ripped out and hardwood floors installed. Found the area rug at IKEA. Still need new bedding, curtains, lamps and a nightstand, but at least the major work is done.

September is also a cruel month for me and my family, as it brings the anniversary date of Phil's passing. See the painting of the woman hugging the shadowy figure? I recently bought that from a local artist (teresacashart) that I met a few years ago at the Midwest Blogging Conference. She calls this piece, "If Only". I thought it was perfect for Phil's memory shelf. 

October was a happy month with an extended family get-together downstate, the birth of a beautiful, healthy baby girl to the young woman in my life who is like my niece...

and the wedding of my best friend's son.

Good things come in threes...I won my third blog giveaway - a gift card from Target - from Jemma at At Home With Jemma in November. Who doesn't love Target? I'm ordering new bedroom curtains from the Target web site, so this gift card is much appreciated.

On a beautiful, sunny day in November, my dad's side of the family had a mini reunion at a golf club. That's me and Brian on the right side in the green jacket and maroon striped shirt. My mom is the redhead in front of me (my hand is on her shoulder), my youngest niece is to the left of me, and my sister is next to my niece/her daughter in the Blackhawks jacket. The rest of the crew are some of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, some of who came in from out-of-state. I think my dad would be mighty proud of his beautiful family. He's been gone 17 years now. 

In December, I finally got a new laptop. My old one had been slowly giving up the ghost all year. I chose an Asus Zenbook, which I'm really enjoying. It has a Solid State Drive, meaning no moving parts, no noise, is more reliable, and consumes less power.
(image from Microsoft)

So, here we are on the brink of 2016. What are you doing for New Year's Eve...will you go out and celebrate or are you staying at home? We'll spend a quiet evening at home with takeout pizza and Netflix. I might get dangerous and make us Moscow Mules. We'll most likely be asleep at midnight. ;-) 

Thank you, dear friends for reading my blog. I treasure each one of you and wish you good health, lots of love, and peace in your hearts for 2016.

Monday, December 28, 2015

christmas aftermath, special visitors, and an ice storm

 Hello there! It's been a long and wonderful weekend of celebrating with family and I'm finally just now getting a breather so that I can post about what's been going on. Christmas Eve, Brian and I met up with his sisters for dinner. My father-in-law was supposed to join us, but he wasn't feeling up to it. He's in his early 80's and not in good physical or mental health. Brian thought maybe we could go back to his dad's place to visit him and his oldest sister told him not to bother - that Dad would be sleeping. It's so sad and hard to see parents decline. 

Christmas Day, we went to my sister's house where we joined her family, Mom, our cousin, and some friends of my sister's that have joined us on other holidays. Tim had to work on both Christmas Eve and Christmas, but before his shift on Christmas day, he drove out to my sister's house to be with us for 1-1/2 hours. 

We exchanged gifts, stuffed our faces with appetizers and desserts, had some wine, and played Cards Against Humanity for hours.

 Tim was finally able to come home in the afternoon on the 26th, so that's when the three of us had our own little quiet Christmas. 

 As most of you know, Tim's a photographer and one of the gifts he requested was this awesome professional tripod. He was very happy. It's even in his favorite colors - black and red. :-)

We ordered Chinese food and settled in with a movie - Samsara. Have you seen this movie? It's a non-narrative 2011 documentary that was filmed over five years in 25 countries around the world. The cinematography was mind-blowing.

Despite the ice storm going on today, we had two tiny ~ and very cute ~ visitors to our house. I dug out some old baby toys from storage, and Mr. Cutie Patootie was busy and happy the entire time they were here.

Oh, how I love squishy new babies!

The babes' mom, who is like a niece to me, is now married and lives in Canada, so I rarely get to see her. She's in town visiting her parents, so she and her husband, along with the two babies, came to visit us today. Loved holding a baby again - it's been so long.

 Even though I'm glad Christmas is over ~ and I de-Christmas'd the house this afternoon ~ I am feeling blessed and content. And needing to go back to my regular healthy eating. :-)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

a hard time of year for many

 This past Saturday, December 19th, my "baby" turned 25 years old. I know it sounds cliche, but I really can't believe my youngest is that "old". He's starting his last semester at university and will be graduating with a BFA degree in Photography in May. He's not one to toot his own horn, but he brought home some of his 24"x36" prints this past weekend and I was honestly blown away by them. His photography talent is incredible. I can't wait to see where his passion and education take him in life.

It seems especially so this year that people are expressing on social media and blogs how sad they are this Christmas and how they just don't feel joyous and cheerful like we are "expected" to be this time of year. The reasons are varied, but seem mostly due to the loss of a loved one. I know Christmas will never be the same for us due to the loss of my oldest son, Philip six years ago. And all I've received lately is bad news...another young person's death, severe health issues and surgeries, and people battling depression.

In my online readings, I came across some articles on coping with grief during the holidays, as well as one on the holidays being hard for other reasons. I've listed the articles below. If you're suffering, I hope you can find some helpful advice in one of the articles. I most likely won't be posting until after Christmas, so here's hoping yours is blessed in some way. Remember to take time for yourself. Breathe. (We forget to do that!) Be good to you!

Friday, December 18, 2015

christmas prep ~ and my version of a bar cart

I'm mostly ready for Christmas. You might notice from the photo below that I added some sparkly garland and faux pine branches to the window to jazz it up a little. I still have to wrap every single present. I hate wrapping, so I procrastinate until the last moment. You'd think that after all these years I'd have learned my lesson by now. But nooo, the torture continues year after year. My saving grace is gift bags. Put the present in the bag with some tissue paper and it's done. If I do have to wrap a present with actual wrapping paper, it ends up looking like a five-year old had free reign with the scissors and paper. Don't even talk to me about any kind of fancy ribbons or bows. Give me a to/from sticker and I'm good to go. But hey, it's all about what's inside the package, right? No, I didn't wrap those boxes with the pretty blue bows in front of the window. That was done by a talented clerk at a local shop.

I did most of my shopping online ahead of time, so that gave us a chance to leisurely pick up a couple of gifts in a nearby town that has some beautiful independent shops. I've mentioned the Woodstock Square on my blog in the past. Woodstock is the town where they filmed the movie, Groundhog Day. Last week, our weather had been unseasonably warm and rainy. On this particular day when I stepped outside of a store and saw the trees and the Opera House in the background shrouded in fog, I had to snap a pic. I thought it was breathtakingly beautiful.

One of the stores we stopped in had a display of humorous cards. Do you like to read random greeting cards when you see a display? I do. This one made me laugh out loud.

Speaking of drinks...I see everywhere that bar carts are the new thing. I'm assuming this was brought on by Mad Men. We're not big drinkers (heck, we're barely small drinkers) nor do I entertain a lot, so I'm not about to go out and buy a bar cart. However, I did have bottles of accumulated booze from over the years sitting in a cabinet in the basement, plus I had my grandma's cocktail pitcher and a couple of glasses in the cabinet, which are really too pretty to be stored away. So, I brought everything out and arranged it on the console table in the basement family room. The wine rack had already been on the console table. 

Here's the cocktail pitcher (at least that's what I think it is - if I'm incorrect or it has some kind of official name, let me know) and glasses that belonged to my grandma. I don't think she ever used them. She had a lot of pretty stuff that accumulated in her china cabinet. And before you think we drink crappy liquor like Wild Turkey (see the bottle in the background?) ~ that was left here by one of Tim's friends last year. I told Tim he needs to take it back to his place next time he comes here. I asked him if anyone would drink it when he has a party. He said, "Are you kidding, Mom? College kids will drink anything." Sadly true.

The one drink we do like is Moscow Mules. It's our traditional family drink when Tim comes home for a visit. You're supposed to drink Moscow Mules from a copper mug, but we only have one. So we had our MMs out of our regular water glasses last time Tim was here. We keep it classy. ;-)  Well, lo and behold, I was in Goodwill the other day and found these three pretty glasses that I thought would be perfect for our Moscow Mules - at least until I can find two more copper mugs at a decent price. In the meantime, can't beat it for 50 cents each for pretty cocktail glasses.

Happy weekend! I hope that you're done with all your Christmas prep so that you can finally relax (with a drink?) ~ or perhaps you need one. Feel free to stop by...Wild Turkey is up for grabs.

Friday, December 11, 2015

sunlight streams in

 My view out the front door this morning...the sky finally had some blue to it (instead of all gray) and the sun was trying to break up the clouds.

And it was warm! Well, for this time of year in a northern climate, anyway. It got up to 50 degrees F -  twenty degrees higher than normal. Brian and I enjoyed a walk around the neighborhood wearing hoodies instead of heavy winter coats, hats and gloves. I kept the kitchen window open most of the day. Felt so good to have fresh air in the house once again.

I love the way the late fall and winter sun streams into the room that used to be my son, Phil's room - which is now my girly room. I was thinking today how I'd like to replace that red chair with either a daybed or love seat, but that would require more rearranging. I'd have to find another place for the butler's table - and space is limited in my small house. You see, the red chair looks cozy and comfortable, but it's not. It's too worn and squishy. It feels okay at first, but then you realize your back hurts because there's no support. So we never sit in here. It's a good spot for the cats to nap though. They don't mind squishy. ;-)

I keep most of my cookbooks in here, novels, journals, art and scrapbooking supplies, yoga materials, plants, a bulletin board and personal tchotchkes. I honestly don't spend a lot of time in here. I do yoga in here and sometimes paperwork or light crafting at the desk, but that's about it. Oh - Brian hung the bird picture above the red chair for me today. I found it at an antique shop for just $6 a couple of months ago. I had some other stuff on that wall that I ended up taking down, so I had to patch up nail holes and touch-up paint in areas. I forgot to take a close-up photo of the bird picture today while I was photographing the room, so I'll have to show it to you in a future post.

Going around the room...

On this side, here's our family photo (taken on Phil's 21st birthday, two months before he passed away), Phil's memory shelf, plants, bookcase and yoga mats.

To the right is the closet. I took the doors off so that I can keep my stacking bins of scrapbooking and art materials in there and have easy access to them. It's also the closet where I keep all of my hoodies and cardigans. This house doesn't have any walk-in closets; just small standard-sized closets. With Brian and I sharing the master bedroom closet, I get this extra closet for some of my clothes and Brian uses the closet in Tim's room/the guest for his overflow.

Wishing you unexpected sunshine...have a happy weekend!

Monday, December 7, 2015

simple christmas decorating

My Christmas decorating is minimal this year. I'm just not feeling the whole deck the halls thing. Could be part of my whole "less is more" attitude this year. Brian brought up the boxes of Christmas decorations from the basement and I started digging through everything. As I started placing Santas and snowmen and candles and other assorted Christmas tchotchkes around the house, I found that I'd be walking around with a decorative item in my hand wondering where to put it...or I'd make an arrangement on a shelf or tabletop and think, "Nah, doesn't look right". And then I realized how much time I was spending trying to decide where to put Christmas decorations - and that's not how I wanted to be spending my time. As Sweet Brown says, "Ain't nobody got time for that!"

(I'll let Crate and Barrel take over the decorating duties)

The only new Christmas decor item I bought this year was a real boxwood wreath for the front door. Again, being in a more minimal mind-frame, I don't want any new Christmas stuff coming into this house. There is absolutely nothing we need and more stuff only ends up being one more thing to take up storage room. Doesn't make any sense when you're working on decluttering all the accumulated stuff in storage as it is! Anyway, I had always admired boxwood wreaths but yet never bought one. Silly, when they're only $10 (at Trader Joes). I hung the wreath on the front door and then started laughing. It was only then that I remembered our front door was stripped of its stain this fall and never repainted before the cold weather set in. So I certainly don't want to draw attention to our "lovely" front door with an elaborate wreath! Another thing I realized when I hung up the wreath, was that it didn't have any pine cones on it. It was supposed to. I guess they fell off in the display box at the store and I never noticed. Oh well - I got my boxwood wreath this year. ;-)

On to the decorating. Most of it happened in the living room and kitchen. I use the mirror on the living room wall to tape up the Christmas cards that we receive. Umm...we've only received two cards so far this year. I took this photo before I hung up the second card. The two small owl cards are just extra ones I had that I thought were cute. I know it's still early - that people send out cards at the last minute, but still...I don't think too many people mail out cards anymore. I remember the days when we received so many cards, they'd be taped up all over the back of our front door and onto the walls.

Kitties are always part of my decor...

though Clementine looks like she is purposely part of the vignette on the buffet.
The little tree is our official Christmas tree. We don't put up a big one anymore. No desire and too much trouble. I displayed some of the boy's ornaments on this little tree. I still buy a Christmas ornament for Tim every year. I know the window still needs something more...greenery or a garland of some sort around the window, but I "played" with what I had and nothing looked right. Martha Stewart is not coming to my house, so it's all good.

Moving into the kitchen...have to keep it simple on the kitchen table because of the cats. Anything elaborate, and they're up there nosing around, having to check things out. Notice my two new white chairs? And the cream-colored rug? I found the rug at Walmart, of all places. Was inexpensive, seems durable (which is a must in a well-used kitchen), and made in the USA. I'd been looking for new kitchen chairs for a long time and finally ordered the white ones from Overstock. We only ordered two to see if we liked the quality and how they looked in the kitchen. We're happy with them, so we'll order two more. The red chairs are just cheap IKEA chairs that I found at Goodwill this past year.

A peek into the china cabinet...keeping it simple.

Top of the fridge. I love my Debbie Mumm snowman print plates that I got at Target oh, about 15 years ago.

This is it in the main bath - a silver angel on the top shelf and some baubles on the bottom shelf.

The table at the end of the hall got a gold tree to match the gold mirrors on the wall and some vintage Christmas cards pinned to the tree. Easy and done!

Did you go all out with Christmas decorating this year, or were you more of a minimalist like me?