Monday, June 29, 2015

let's talk succulents ~ unique containers and care

Hello there! I hope you had a great weekend. My weekend included a couple of fun outings, including getting together with a friend at a local coffee shop and then shopping at a nearby vintage shop. I never even knew this vintage shop existed ~ until my friend led me there.

One of the things I was really impressed with was all the unique ways the owner displayed succulents. Loved this vintage birdcage filled with moss and plants...

and this old letter holder.

Very creative use of an old dolly and plant hangers, don't you think?

I also liked how she planted succulents in old tins...

and boxes and galvanized metal containers. But, I was wondering...don't these plants get waterlogged in these types of containers? She keeps all of these plants outdoors and we've had lots of rain. I didn't think succulents liked too much water. But yet these succulents look vibrant and healthy! Anyone in the know?

Here's another cool idea ~ using an old wagon to make a small garden. I like how an old piece of metal fencing (I'm guessing that's what it is) was used in back for height and interest and then an old piece of wood in the display, as well. You can see how much rain we've had by the wagon underneath the one with plants in it. Look at all that standing water!

As for myself, I've been collecting small vintage animal planters for my succulents. I took this photo outdoors, but I do keep all these plants indoors.

I also have some succulents planted in a milk glass container. The plant on the left started dying; these were the two small pieces I was able to save.

I also have succulents in teacups ~ and, as you can see, the plant in the flowered teacup is not doing well. What's up with me and succulents?! As with the milk glass container and the small, vintage planters, I put a layer of tiny rocks on the bottom of the containers for drainage. I only water them once every two weeks. They're not in direct sun.

Do you have succulents or have you ever tried keeping them? If so, do you keep them indoors or outdoors? Do you use any kind of unique containers? What kind of light do you keep them in and how often do you water them? Any fertilizer?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

summer salads

Seems that in the summer, I'm always looking for something light, healthy and quick to eat for lunch. Am I the only one who opens up the refrigerator several times, hoping something good magically appears? ;-) So that actually happens, I did have to do some prep work to make several salads to keep in the fridge, but in the long run, it was worth it. These would make great side dishes for a heavier dinner or to take to a barbeque, too. And...they're all easy-peasy to make.

1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced and then cut into 1" pieces
Fresh herbs of your choice (dill, chives, oregano, basil, parsley), to taste
2 T. cold-pressed olive oil
1 T. white wine or white balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper, to taste

In medium-sized bowl, toss together cucumber, onion and herbs. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over cucumber mixture and toss until combine.

1 lb. each red and yellow potatoes
2 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 T. cold-pressed olive oil
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
Fresh herbs of your choice (dill, tarragon, chives, oregano, thyme), to taste

This is a wonderful potato salad to make early in the day since it requires turning on the oven to roast the potatoes first. Preheat oven to 400F. Scrub potatoes and cube into 1" pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in 400 degree oven for 40 minutes, turning potatoes after 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Put potatoes in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the cold-pressed olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, and herbs. Pour over potatoes and stir gently to coat all the potatoes. Add more salt and pepper, to taste, if needed.

One package Rainbow Salad (red cabbage, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower)
1 cup broccoli, cut into small pieces
2 T. cold-pressed olive oil
1 T. white wine or rice wine vinegar
1 navel orange, juiced
Raw honey (approx 1 tsp) or stevia, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium-sized bowl, toss together the Rainbow salad and broccoli. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, honey/stevia and salt and pepper. Pour over salad and mix gently.

 Nom-nom. Enjoy!

Monday, June 22, 2015

around the yard in june

 This entire month of June so far, has been an endless blur of rain and storms. I took some photos around the yard a few days ago when we finally got a break from the rain.

This table is on my front porch. My spider plants do really well outdoors in the warm weather. The plant in back is spinach, which I'll have to dump soon. See how tall and leggy it got? Greens don't do well in hot weather; they're more of a spring and fall veggie.

This pot of flowers is also on my front porch ~ dahlias, bleeding heart, and ivy. 

 We like to upcycle when we can, so several years ago when our iron arbor started to rust and fell apart, we used two of the pieces as trellises. I don't have any flowers planted to grow up the trellises right now (I've tried clematis and morning glories - they didn't do well due to lack of sun), so for now I have little copper pots of flowers hanging from the bars on one of the trellises. The other one has a grapevine wreath hanging on it.

This pretty vintage garden chair was gifted to me by my aunt before she moved.

Taking a walk on the side of the house to the patio, the hostas are about to flower any day now. I know there's many varieties of hostas, but these ones with the leaves outlined in white are one of my favorites. We have a different variety of hostas lining the patio (you can see them a little bit in the background) and on the other side of the house. We didn't buy any of them...they were all transplants from neighbors and friends. Same with all our tiger lilies.

Instead of using a traditional hanging basket of flowers from a shepherd's hook, I went with potted flowers in a bird cage.

I need to harvest the basil growing in the blue pot. I'll be making pesto!

Love dianthus. Adds such a pretty punch of color.

The Joe Pye Weed (foreground) is really spreading - which is fine with us. It started out as two small plants. It will flower in July or August, which attracts a lot of bees.

I'm glad that I painted the table and ottoman this year. Looks so much better than having everything all white.

Looking at the patio from the other side...

Our little back yard is looking so green and lush.

Another perennial I love...tickseed. I never water it or do anything special to take care of it except to deadhead "spent" flowers.

This is my butterfly garden right now. It looks a little boring when nothing has bloomed yet. Perhaps I'll divide a small portion of the tickseed and transplant it into the butterfly garden to add some early color. In another few weeks, the black-eyed susan, echinacea and lamb's ear will be in bloom, and then the butterfly bushes bloom in August and sedum in September.

Here's the back of my house, with a big lilac bush (there's a Russian Sage plant on the other side that you can't see), a hydrangea bush and my herb garden which has mint, oregano, thyme, rosemary and chives. The only vegetable we planted this year is tomatoes, and they're in a big pot on the other side of the house where they get a lot of sun.

Thank you for stopping by ~ hope you enjoyed seeing a little bit of my yard!


Tuesday, June 16, 2015


We just started the long, way overdue process of redoing our master bedroom. Every room in the house has been re-done except ours. Doesn't this figure? The first step was getting rid of the "elephant" in the room - our massive oak bookcase headboard. We finally did so - but it's a rather interesting story what happened to it. I'll tell you about that another time. Our second step is to paint. Our bedroom was painted a light blue a few years ago and I hated it from the minute I saw the room. It would've been fine for a baby boy's room...or, as I sometimes joked, "Looks like the Easter Bunny threw up in here." We hadn't taken enough time to pick out a paint color and the painter was rushing us, so basically we chose a blue paint chip that we thought would look good and that was that. This time, we are painting the room ourselves and are taking our time to make sure we get the color we want. We are sticking with a neutral color and I'm tired of beige, so we're going with gray. I did a ton of online homework on picking out paint colors and what grays have blue undertones (because I will have blue accents in the room) and what grays go with beige, because the hallway leading to our bedroom is a light coffee color and the master bath is a light beige. And instead of just using paint chips, we got sample sizes of the paint and painted swatches on the walls. Here's the first two colors we chose. I immediately knew the first color was too dark. Wasn't totally sold on the second color.

So then we chose three more colors (shown in the "strips" underneath the big swatch). Don't they all look beige-y in this photo?! It depends on the time of day in the room, plus looking at these colors against a blue wall doesn't help. Our decision is now down to two colors, so what we're going to do before making the final decision is to paint each color on a piece of poster board and hold it up to the walls in the hallway and master bathroom to see which gray "flows" best with these other two rooms. Then we'll get cracking on the painting.

Now into the kitchen...

I added a new (thrifted) mini pitcher (OK, so technically it's a creamer) to my collection ~ the white one with yellow and blue flowers. It's Noritake, Summerbreeze pattern. Even the name is lovely.

I also found a red spoon at Hobby Lobby that I thought would look nice next to the coffee artwork on the kitchen wall.

Here's the wall in its entirety...

I know this doesn't have anything to do with walls, but I can't finish this post without mentioning that the Chicago Blackhawks won the 2015 Stanley Cup last night! I'm a big hockey fan ~ it's about the only sport I watch with interest. I tend to like the fast-paced, soccer, basketball. I was born in Canada and my dad was Canadian ~ that should also tell you something. ;-) My dad played semi-pro hockey in his younger days in Canada and then when I was growing up, he taught me to skate and also brought me to a lot of the hockey games that he coached. Anyway, this is the third time in six years that the Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup ~ 2010, 2013 and now in 2015. And this was the first time since 1938 -  77 years! - that the Cup was won here on home ice. We Chicagoans are very happy right now. The sun is even shining today for the first time in I-don't-know-how-many-days.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

lymphedema ~ and painting

 Back in November 2014, I was diagnosed with primary lymphedema in my left arm. Most people - including doctors - aren't familiar with lymphedema. The reason most doctors don't know about this condition is because it usually happens after cancer surgery. So the doctors that are most familiar with lymphedema are oncologists. According to my lymphedema therapist, they talk about lymphedema in medical school maybe for an hour. I'm the one who familiarizes my primary care physician about lymphedema! As you might have guessed, lymphedema has to do with your lymphatic system. It's an abnormal buildup of protein-rich fluid that causes swelling, most often in the legs and arms, although it can happen in the chest, buttocks and groin. The most common type of lymphedema is secondary - which "can develop from an infection, malignancy, surgery, scar tissue formation, trauma, radiation, or other cancer treatment." (From Cleveland Clinic.)

I have the rare kind - primary. It can be hereditary, though I don't know of anyone on either side of my family who had this. Or, it can be an abnormality of the lymph vessels or missing lymph vessels. It can show up right after birth or be late-onset, such as in my case. Back on November 24, 2014, I wrote a little bit about it in this post. I had just gone through five straight days of manual lymph drainage (which is done by a certified lymphedema therapist) and bandaging. Well, here I am seven months later and going through it again. Though the good news is - my arm is doing better (measurements are down), so I only have to deal with everything for three days in a row this time. You see, there is no cure for lymphedema. It can only be managed. And that management is very important, because if you don't take care of it, it will get worse. I am only in stage 1, which can actually be reversible. So anyhoo...this is what my arm currently looks like with the five layers of bandaging. NOT fun. I don't let it stop me from doing most things around the house. Except I won't go out in public. I can't stand the stares and people asking me what happened to my arm. It's not something that can be explained in a few words.

As long as I have lymphedema, I will also have to wear compression garments every day and night. This is the Caresia sleeve that I have to wear at night. I call it my oven mitt. Sexy. (Photo from the November 24, 2014 blog post.) During the day, I wear a beige compression stocking for 6-8 hours/day. 

 On to better things...I last left you with my chalk-painted nightstand and said that I was painting the three drawers in an ombre fashion.

 I decided to go with shades of blue. Looks pretty good, right?

Well, I went to put the drawers back in the nightstand and they didn't fit in the order I had intended them to! I swear that these drawers are all the same size. I even had Brian try to fit them in from lightest to darkest, but no go. We don't know if it has something to do with the paint or what. This was the only way they fit. I am not painting them again! Now all I need to do is to find some drawer pulls. I'm going to look for silver curved ones. 

I also spray-painted a little table for the master bathroom. 

 It tucks in perfectly next to the sink. We lack counter space in this bathroom, so it'll give me room for things such as a bottle of lotion, a box of Kleenex and maybe a pretty decorative item.

 Bandages off for good tomorrow ~ which means I can spend all day running errands!

Monday, June 8, 2015

a haunting weekend

Another fun weekend, this time in the beautiful and great city of Chicago. We joined one of my best friends and her boyfriend and first went to a small art fair in Logan Square. We didn't buy anything, but it was fun to look around. Not sure what this 3D display was about, but Brian and I posed for a photo.

We then walked several blocks to a wonderful Italian restaurant, Letizia's Fiore.

We all split several dishes ~ this was my favorite one. It's homemade pasta with roasted eggplant and Burrata cheese. I had never had Burrata cheese and had to ask what it was. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside is mozzarella and cream. You cut into it and it gently dissolves into the pasta dish...just melts in your mouth. 

After dinner, we went on the Chicago Hauntings Ghost Tour. I don't necessarily believe in ghosts, but the tour was fun - and yes, freaky-scary at times.

"Author and 25-year veteran paranormal researcher Ursula Bielski and her staff of expert historians and paranormal investigators have been hosting the award-winning Chicago Hauntings tours for 13 years, introducing countless thousands of visitors and natives to a very different side of the city.  From the sites of massive tragedies--like the Eastland disaster and the Iroqouis Theater Fire--to the bloody Fort Dearborn and St. Valentine's Day Massacres... from the death site of Chicago's most famous ghost,  "Resurrection Mary,"  to the body dump of legendary serial killer H. H. Holmes . . . From the cursed and deadly Hancock Building to the infamous Hull House, inspiration for "Rosemary's Baby" ...  you'll get a personal introduction to each one and more on this mind-altering tour of Chicago's true hauntings.  The  2.5 hour tour is by bus and fully narrated, but with numerous stops at some of the most actively haunted sites in Chicago.   This is not a "spook show" or haunted house tour with cheap thrills and scares.  Rather, it is a darkly historical, sometimes deeply disturbing tour and not recommended for highly sensitive children or adults."

This is "Death Alley" next to what was the Iroquois Theater - now known as the Oriental Theater. On December 30, 1903, a fire broke out in the theater from faulty wiring. 602 people died. This fire ranks as the nation's fourth deadliest blaze and the deadliest single building fire in American history. This alley still stays mostly deserted and is supposedly haunted. For the history behind this fire (it's a very interesting read, with the details on the plans and construction of the theater and how it was supposed to be "fireproof"), click here.

Such a beautiful evening in Chicago, but unfortunately, this is the sight of The Eastland Disaster
where, on July 24,1915, the ship rolled over and 844 people drowned. Allegedly, another haunted area.

The last story and photos I have to share with you are from Jane Addams' Hull-House.

The story behind this house goes ~
"At the time when Jane Addams took over Hull House, several years had passed since the death of Mrs. Charles Hull, but this didn't prevent her from making her presence known. She had died of natural causes in a second-floor bedroom of the mansion and within a few months of her passing, her ghost was said to be haunting that particular room. Overnight guests began having their sleep disturbed by footsteps and what were described as "strange and unearthly noises". 

Mrs. Hull's bedroom was first occupied by Jane Addams herself, who was awakened one night by loud footsteps in the otherwise empty room. After a few nights of this, she confided her story to Ellen, who also admitted to experiencing the same sounds. Jane later moved to another room.

But she would not be alone in noticing the unusual happenings. Helen Campbell, the author of the book PRISONERS OF POVERTY, reported seeing an apparition standing next to her bed (she took Jane up on the offer of staying in the "haunted room"). When she lit the gas jet, the figure vanished. The same peculiar sounds and figures were also observed by Mrs. Louise Bowen, a lifelong friend of Jane's, Jane and Mary Smith, and even Canon Barnett of Toynbee Hall, who visited the settlement house during the Columbian Exposition in 1893.

According to Jane Addams' book, TWENTY YEARS AT HULL HOUSE, earlier tenants of the house, which included the Little Sisters of the Poor and a second-hand furniture store, believed the upstairs of the house was haunted as well. They had always kept a bucket of water on the stairs, believing that the ghost was unable to cross over it.

Regardless, the ghost was always considered to be rather sad, but harmless, and residents and guests learned to live with its presence. Unfortunately, it was not the only "supernatural" legend connected to Hull House!" (Source: Weird and Haunted Chicago)

The story then goes on about the reputed "Devil Baby".

Looking in through the front door (we couldn't go in; public hours were over) at the famous staircase.

Hope you enjoyed a little bit of the ghost tour and Chicago history. :-)