Friday, February 27, 2015

journals, planners, notecards and other writing goodies

When I last posted on Monday, I had mentioned I was getting sick. I've been down for the
count all week. When Brian got home from work on Wednesday, he took one look at me
 and said, "You're going to the doctor." I was running a temperature, was totally congested,
and had a very deep cough. Even though I could barely get out of bed, I managed to get up
and get my coat and shoes on, and off we went. Ends up I have bronchitis and a 
sinus  infection. I'm now on an antibiotic and today I finally feel semi-human. I'm still
 coughing, but not as badly. (I know bronchitis takes a long time to get over.) I can breathe a
 little bit now though I still can't taste anything, so food doesn't appeal to me. My mom
 brought over her homemade soup today and even though I don't have an appetite, I ate
 some anyway. I know I need some nourishment. Can't wait until I can actually taste it, 
especially the broth. Mom made bone broth ahead of time and then used it for the soup.

On to a more pleasant topic...

Maybe it's because I've always loved to write, but I've always had a thing for pretty journals,
notebooks, stationary, and notecards. This basket is on my desk and is filled with some
of the books and papers I use most often. 

I get my planners at Barnes and Noble right after the first of the year when they're
50% off. I loved the graphics on this one. Yes, I do judge books by their cover.

There's even beautiful art on the inside. (The bookweight holding the planner
open is from Levenger.)

I bought this journal years ago ~ again, it was the cover that got me. I use it for blog
planning, jotting notes, websites to look up, and lists.

I also bought a different kind of journal for this year. I've always been a fan of 
Jennifer Louden so thought I'd give her new book a try.

The only complaint I have about this journal is that it's hard to write in because
of the binding. It's hard to open the book to where it's flat, so I find myself trying to
hold it open with my other hand while writing. They really should of made this
 journal with a spiral binding.

I keep most of my notecards in a basket on a bookshelf. Keeps them accessible,
 and organized ~ plus they're pretty, to boot.

I couldn't talk about writing without discussing pens. I am very particular about writing
instruments. I don't like to write with pencils and never did. When I was in high school
and thought I could get away with it, I'd even do my math homework in pen. I still do
 crossword puzzles and word jumbles in pen. And once they invented gel pens, look out!
 I was in heaven. They write so smoothly. This is my new favorite pen, made by Tul. Brian's
 now hooked on these, too. He likes black ink and fine point; I like blue ink and medium point.

I'm off to make a hot toddy now in hopes that it'll help me sleep tonight. 
(The coughing fits keep me awake.) Have a fantastic weekend, my friends.

Monday, February 23, 2015

winter blues but weekend fun

I'm finally at the point where I'm so sick of winter that I'm practically climbing the walls.
We're still having the bitter cold here ~ it's -9F here this morning. I was looking at some
of my Instagram photos from last spring where the trees were budding, Brian was grilling
outside, and the patio furniture was uncovered and actually being used. I am so longing 
for that again. And yesterday, my throat started getting sore and scratchy and I knew
what was coming. I immediately started taking Allibiotic (natural herbal supplement for
 immune system strength) and drinking herbal tea with fresh lemon and raw honey. Frankly,
I'm peeved at my body for being sick again since I normally take good care of myself: I
eat very healthy, I exercise, practice yoga, and take herbal supplements. I also wash my
hands immediately when I get home from being out in public. So, what gives? I was joking
with my mom this morning and told her I was going to start eating Hostess Ho Hos and 
Doritoes again. (Totally kidding - I stay away from stuff like that.)
We did get a chance to escape for awhile on Saturday. Brian had the day off (a rarity on
a weekend) and we first headed to a library book sale. This stack of books and CDs
are all Brian's except for the Apartment Therapy book, which has wonderful design ideas
for small spaces (not just apartments). I've always been a fan of their website. I'll eventually
read the "Dearie" book as I'm a Julia Child fan and have several other books by her and
about her.

 This stack of novels is mine. Before I bought them, I quickly scanned them on my phone
on the amazon app to look up the ratings and reviews. If a book has anything less than
4-5 stars, I don't buy it. We got all these books (and thetwo CDs) for $22 ~ less than the
 price of one hardcover book these days!

 Our tummies were then signaling it was time for lunch and we found this small, quiet
Argentinian place nearby.

 I had a cheese and scallion stuffed empanada with tomato bisque soup and a
lovely mixed greens salad with a sweet balsamic vinaigrette. 

 Brian (the seafood lover) had a shrimp wrap, clam chowder soup, and salad.
The food was absolutely amazing. Everything at this place is homemade - even the
pasta. And so reasonably priced. Our lunch bill was less than what we would've paid
 at Panera! (And much tastier and not mass-manufactured food.)

After lunch, we went to Mariano's to pick up some groceries. It's definitely not one of those
grocery stores where you can run in and out. It has a cafe, a huge salad bar, impressive
wine and artisan cheese sections, and aisle upon aisle of every ethnic food you can think
of. This was a sampling of their olive oil selection. You can see all the different country's 
flags in the background. Maybe because I'm such a foodie, but I find it thrilling to walk up
and down all these aisles, looking at all the unfamiliar-to-me foods.

I'd never seen such a diverse selection of organic chocolates. How could you ever
choose? I'd like one of each, please.

I hope that your weekend was filled with some of the things that delight you, too. 


Thursday, February 19, 2015

on weather, wine corks and little indulgences

 This is ice on the inside of my bedroom window this morning, you guys. (We say "you
guys" here in the Midwest in reference to "everyone".) I know the house needs new windows,
but c'mon. It was -12F this morning  ~ almost -30F with the wind chill factor. Needless to say,
 I'm plenty tired of winter. I also noticed from this photograph that the view out this window is
mostly houses. When we first moved into this house almost 25 years ago, there were 
no houses beside us or in back of us. It was all wooded land. I used to watch the deer and
 fat groundhogs come out of the woods from this window. I really miss that. 

Thanks for all the suggestions on fillers for my lamp base. I decided to try the wine corks
for now. I had a bowl filled with corks next to the wine rack in the family room, so I 
dumped them into the lamp base. I obviously need a lot more. So, I either need to up my 
vino consumption, or ask friends and family to start saving wine corks for me. 

Do you ever buy yourself presents? Not the usual clothes or things for the house, but
maybe a little something that makes you smile or that you "just had to have"? A couple
of weeks ago, I came across this Buzzfeed article:

I loved just about every one of those mugs. And since I'm a cat lover as well,
I decided to treat myself to this mug. I think it's rather groovy and delightful.
This is one side; the other side advertises The Strand.

  If you're not familiar with this bookstore, The Strand (which I wasn't until I heard about it
 from Claudia at Mockingbird Hill Cottage), it's "18 miles of new, used and rare books"
 in New York City. I would love to visit this bookstore in person someday. 
(Note to self: make a Bucket List.)

 How's the weather where you live? 
Have you bought yourself any little goodies lately?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

staying out of the thrift shops - kind of

Believe it or not, this die-hard thrifter has been staying out of Goodwill. When I started 
cleaning out the basement last year (and I still have a long way to go), I decided I
 wasn't bringing in any more stuff that I truly didn't love or didn't have a use for. Since last fall,
 I've only been in Goodwill maybe three or four times. A record! From those few times, I did
 find three things that I have a use for and have a secret little crush on, too.
I've always wanted a mini Bundt cake pan but I certainly wasn't going to pay $25+.
So I was excited to find one made by Nordic Ware ~ and bonus that it's vintage,
in good condition, and a pretty color, too.

Now to find some delicious bundt cake recipes that aren't heavy on the sugar!

There's two finds in this photo below: the lamp with the clear glass bottom and the large 
basket in the middle. I don't know about you, but I can never have too many baskets to help
with organizing just about anything. This one's perfect for holding magazines and the
Sunday newspaper. I've seen similar baskets at places like Hobby Lobby and Michaels
and they're about $25. This one is better quality - it's so sturdy! - and it was only $3.

Now, about that lamp. The Goodwill that I go to gets donations from Target. When I spied
this brand-new Target lamp for $12.99, you'd better believe I snatched it up! I put it in
my cart and then went to a more open area where I could examine it to make sure nothing
was wrong with it. It was perfect. Now I just have to decide what to use to fill the base. I saw
on Kate's Place blog that she turned her clear lamp base into a faux terrarium. I'm still
thinking about that option. Any other unique ideas?

Here's the best part: When I was in Target a couple of weeks ago, I saw my lamp.
I could not believe that it was on sale for $44.99. Original price $49.99. Did I score
a deal or what?!

Have you been thrifting lately? If so, any good finds?

Joining Cozy Little House Tweak it Tuesday for today's post.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

red curtains and visiting tim

 Finally. The hunting and the waiting are over. I'd been looking for the "perfect" pair of
red curtains for Tim's room/the guest room for a long time. I don't sew, so I looked in
 numerous stores and online until I recently found these online at Land of Nod. They are 
quality cotton, made in India. Brian put up the curtain rod (from Target) today and then we
 hung the curtains. They're wrinkled - I'll need to wash and iron them, but here they are for
 now. (The silk Roman shade was from I had won a $100 gift card in a blog
giveaway to awhile ago and this is what I ordered.)

The 96" length of the curtains was perfect. Maybe a tad too long, but they'll shrink a little
 once I wash them. That's Clementine snoozing on the chair, by the way.

 I wanted to keep this room rather masculine and neutral, but with pops of red - one
of Tim's favorite colors. The comforter is from Overstock. Silly me washed it in our
 washing machine instead of taking it to the laundromat to use a large capacity
 machine and now it's all wrinkled. Anyway, I like how the red curtains pick up the
little bit of red in the comforter. I purposely don't have any art on the walls yet. I wanted
 to wait until the room was completely finished. I'm planning on doing a gallery wall
of black and white family photos. 

 See how the white detailing on the curtains looks like the inside stitching on a  garment?
When we were hanging these curtains today, Brian insisted that they were backward 
because of the visible stitching. I kept telling him no, that that's how they're supposed to
 be. That this kind of stitching was the subtle detail that I really liked about these curtains. 
He just said, "Okaaay." I told him to leave the decorating up to me. ;-)

Speaking of Tim, we're taking the short road trip to see him tomorrow. (For those
of you who are new to my blog, he's away at university.) While the guys do Tim's
taxes online, I'm going to visit a cute little shop that's going out of business. They carry
housewares, cool kitchen stuff, vintage aprons, fabrics, jewelry and clothing, cards and
stationery, cookbooks, gift items...and everything is 20% right now. I have to at least take
a look! The three of us will then go out to a late lunch/early dinner. I spent the afternoon
making a pot of creamy chicken and rice soup and I'll be taking big container of that
to Tim - per his request. This mama was more than happy to oblige.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

cookin' up fun and food in my kitchen

When me, my mom, and my aunt planned on a scrapbooking day at my house, I wondered just where we were going to do this. I have a small house. No dining room to temporarily convert to a craft space. I decided on the kitchen, but we have a small table that certainly wouldn't do for three women and all their crafting supplies. I moved the kitchen table into the living room, Brian brought up the 6' long table from the basement, I dug out my scrapbooking supplies from my office and voila! We were in business. That's my cute little mommy on the right and her sister - my aunt - on the left. We scrapped for several hours on Saturday and then went out to lunch. Such a fun girl's day. 

While I'm talking about my kitchen, I thought I'd share a couple of my latest recipes. I love being creative in the kitchen! I think these are dishes that anyone can make and the ingredients are adaptable. You don't have kale? Use spinach. No white beans on-hand? Use pinto or kidney beans. Out of veggie broth? Use chicken broth. Experiment with your favorite seasonings, too. If you have kids, have them help you chop the vegetables. (Of course, only if they're old enough to be handling a knife, and with your supervision.) First up is Tuscan Soup...

1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
2 links fresh Italian sausage
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
Dried basil, oregano, thyme & freshly ground pepper, to taste
Couple handfuls fresh kale

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion, carrots,
celery and garlic. Saute until veggies are soft and aromatic, about 7 minutes.
While the veggies are sauteeing, in a separate frying pan, cook the sausage
links on all sides until browned and no longer pink inside. (Spray the pan with an 
olive oil spray - you may find you need to add a little bit of oil to the pan, too.) When
 the sausages are done, remove to a cutting board and cut into 1/2" slices. Add
to the veggie mixture in the soup pot. Pour in the vegetable broth and the white 
beans. Add seasonings. (I don't add any salt, but you can do so, to taste.) Bring
to a slow boil, then reduce heat to low, put lid on pot, and let simmer for at least
30 minutes. Add fresh kale and let simmer another 5-10 minutes. Serve with
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Next is a wonderful vegetarian dish that will please even meat lovers. It's a hearty, "meaty" dish because of the eggplant and garbanzo beans. Tammy of T's Daily Treasures was my inspiration behind this dish. Tammy said in this post that she took "eggplant, tomato and onion sauteed in olive oil and slowly simmered with tomato paste, a little water, salt, pepper and allspice." So I took it from there and made a Mediterranean Ratatouille...

Sauteeing the beautiful vegetables...

Finished product (before I added the garbanzo beans) - yum!

2 T. olive oil
2 small eggplant, cubed
 2 small zucchini, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 c. kalamata olives or 1/8 c. olive tapenade
1 small can tomato paste
Cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg, to taste (or allspice)
Sriracha sauce, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and then add the eggplant, zucchini
and onion. Saute for about 5 minutes, until the veggies are starting to soften
up, then add the tomatoes and olives (or tapenade). Cook for 1 minute longer.
Add 1/2 can tomato paste and enough water to make a medium-thick sauce.
Cook on low for a few minutes, then add sriracha sauce, salt, pepper, and
cinnamon and nutmeg or allspice - all to your taste. Stir in garbanzo beans.
Let your kitchen be filled with tantalizing Mediterranean aromas and your mind
drift to faraway lands...
You can serve with warm pita bread or over quinoa. Makes 4 servings.

I hope that I've inspired you to try these dishes. Happy cooking!

Sharing this post at Cozy Little House Tweak it Tuesday.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thank you for all your support and kind words on my last post. When you're in the thick
of yucky things in life, you go into a doom-and-gloom-panicky mode, right? I know we've
all been there for different kinds of reasons. The good news is: our water and well issues
seem okay now. The bad news is: the owner of the well company never called us back, 
even after leaving numerous messages. Great customer service! We will keep trying. We
 still have a few questions. And my dentist appointment where I got the first part of my crown
went...well, I don't want to say fine, because it certainly wasn't pleasant while I was there
and in the middle of it. But at least I like this dentist and he is understanding about 
my nervousness. He gives me little breaks and told me to raise my hand if I was feeling
uncomfortable. This is my fourth crown. I've earned queen status by now, don't ya think?
 I go back in three weeks to put the permanent crown in and to get more Novocaine on the
 other side to attempt to remove a cavity underneath another crown. 

On to more pleasant things...I was the winner in Connie from Crafty Home Cottage's
giveaway! Connie is not only a sweet, friendly woman ~ she is also artistic and does all
kind of crafts and needlework. Connie sent me a red and white dish towel with the 
cutest stitched house and heart. The bottom is trimmed in red and white rick rack.The colors 
go perfectly in my kitchen and the little house reminds me of Comfy House.

 There was also a matching quilted and stitched pot holder which I have hanging on
the side of my fridge. (Hello, old family photos.)

 Connie also sent me this beautiful red and white banner. Each little pennant
has a stitched heart. Adorable! I wanted to hang this in my kitchen, but the only
possible place would be my china hutch and it's too narrow.

 So I ended up hanging it on the wall above Tim's bed/the guest bed.

The sun is shining brightly here today but it is bitter cold. It was -5F when I woke up
this morning. I think this cold weather calls for some baking and cooking, so I'm off
now to make a dairy-free apple cake for Saturday. My mom and aunt are coming to
my house on Saturday - we're going to have a card-making day - and they're both
lactose intolerant. I thought it'd be nice to have a little treat with our coffee. And 
tonight's dinner will be stuffed manicotti, so that will take some prep work, too.
Happy Thursday, everyone. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

socked with snow and other BS

 The snow hit us yesterday. Fast and hard. And with the high winds, they called it a blizzard.
This was the front of my house yesterday morning.

 You can see by this photo that it was white-out conditions. Mr. Squirrel was brave.

 Despite shoveling twice yesterday, this is what I woke up to today. Where's my porch?
We got 16-1/2" of this annoying white stuff.

Before I started in on the shoveling again (and I sure am thankful for the young
man that lives a few doors down that shoveled our driveway yesterday and today
while Brian was at work), I walked around and took some photos. I love how the snow
is hanging precociously over the edge of the roof. 

 My butterfly garden's under there somewhere, too. Don't let the pretty sunshine
fool you. When the sun is shining in the winter and the sky is bright blue, that only
means it's extremely cold. We're now experiencing the below-zero wind chill temps
that usually happen after a snowstorm.

 The back yard...

 My neighbor's cat, Gilbert was watching and meowing at me out the window.

I hope no one's offended by my blog post title today (the "BS"). I am just so fed up
and stressed out today. The well problems continue. The new pressure tank they put
in continually cycled on and off, even when we weren't using any water. And the pressure
was continually high. Also, the house filter we have was getting so filled with sediment
that Brian was changing the filter every few days. The well guys were just back out at
the house. They fiddled with stuff and said they think it was just the check valve, but then 
they started talking about a possible leak in the well and if they have to bring their trucks 
out here and dig down into our well, it's going to be huge bucks. What?! These problems
weren't happening until they installed this new pressure tank. As far as we're concerned,
they're responsible for these problems. Brian has a call in to the owner of the company.

 We do not have big bucks. Heck, we don't even have little bucks. We are a one-income
family supporting a college student and living as frugally as we can. And we're supposed
to get a new furnace and AC this spring because both of those are past their prime?!
(Original units of the house - 26 years old.)

And this may seem piddly, but for me it's big. And it just adds to all the stress of the above.
I have a dentist appointment tomorrow morning for a crown. The thing is, I have terrible
 dental phobia. So bad, that I dread my appointments for at least a week in advance. I
 consider cancelling (and I have - or procrastinated at making the appointment at all) but I 
know that it's best to just get it over with. So, I am feeling both on the verge of tears or 
vomiting right now. It's just all a lot to take in at one time. Thanks for listening. I so 
appreciate my blogging friends.