Sunday, December 31, 2017

end of year musings

Here we are, the last day of 2017. 
How was this year for you?

 When I went back through my blog, planner and photographs from 2017, there were a lot of things that made me smile, and of course, other things I'd rather forget.

 Finally getting some work done in our house - the pass-thru between the living room and kitchen, the wainscoting torn off the kitchen walls and the kitchen repainted, having a mantle built around the fireplace, and new windows put in the house - were positive changes for Comfy House. Hopefully in 2018, we can have a little work done outside.

As for myself, I went to my first Blackhawk's game, tried my hand at painting on canvas, took a level one Reiki course, and got accepted into the Wayfair Homemaker/Featured Blogger program. I also had knee surgery (menisectomy) in March and then five months of physical therapy, so I'm glad that's behind me.

 I wonder how my fur babies will do in 2018. Zippo's my old guy (darker kitty, in front) who has glaucoma, cataracts and thyroid disease. He's also mostly deaf and a little senile. He'll be 19 in May, so every day with him is especially treasured. Clementine (middle) was recently diagnosed with kidney failure. She's under the care of three different vets - regular, internal medicine, and a dermatologist - so we're doing the best we can with her care. The internal medicine vet said she could live a couple more years. Like with Zippo, we just don't know though. 

Life is uncertain, but it can also be beautiful.

 My exciting New Year's Eve has consisted of my car almost breaking down...

 I left to run a couple of errands. On the way to the stores, I was stopping at a friend's house for a short visit. Half a mile up the road, my car started sputtering, like it was about to die. It was happening while driving and while at a stop. Then the check engine light went on. By the time I got to my friend's house (only a mile away), my car smelled like burning rubber. I was able to drive it a couple more miles to the shop that always works on our cars, while my friend followed behind me and then drove me home. So much for errands! My car is a 2001 Honda Accord, so yes, it's old. I've never had any problems with it until now, so I guess I've been lucky. I'm just glad this didn't happen two days ago when I was out and about, almost an hour away from home and during a snowstorm.

Brian will be home from work soon. We'll have pizza and wine and watch a little TV until Brian falls asleep. He's entitled - he just finished working three 12-hour shifts. And he gets up at 3:15 a.m. I'll probably just go to bed at my usual time - 11:00 -11:30. I'll make sure to warm up my bed with the heated mattress pad beforehand though: our weather has been frigidly cold.Tonight the wind chills are supposed to be anywhere from -20F to -35F. Glad we're staying home.

Thank you for reading my blog, your kind comments, and your friendship. See you in the New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

christmas aftermath

Hello! Did you have a nice Christmas? I did, though like I say every year at this time, I'm glad it's over. It was three days in a row of get-togethers, too much food, wine, presents, and late nights. Lovely and memorable times, but a bit overwhelming for this introvert.

A couple of fun photos from Christmas Eve:

My son wearing beard ornaments.

My cousin's wife, my cousin, and my sister ~ "proper" ladies. 

Christmas Day was just the three of us (six, if you include the three cats) at home. I made my famous breakfast casserole and French Press coffee and we settled in to open presents. 

My main gift to my Brian was this personalized keychain from The Vintage Pearl. I know it's hard to tell from this photo, but the strap is leather engraved with an "R" (the first letter of our last name) and the hammered silver circle has all our names on it (Brian, Melanie, Philip, Timothy). 

My main gift from Brian were these beautiful earrings from Sundance.

Tim loves to get me cat-themed things...this year it was a variety of socks, plus this wine glass. 😻 Of course, the cats were in the thick of the present opening and they got presents, too ~ a new scratching post and some catnip-filled mice. I wanted to post a photo of the cats on Christmas morning, but either my phone or laptop isn't cooperating with transferring photos. I use OneDrive on both devices and since OneDrive is a cloud storage, the photos I take with my phone usually go straight to my laptop. But, not lately. Sometimes they don't go at all. Other times - like at Christmas - only some of my photos appeared on my laptop. I've even tried manually sharing photos from my phone to different apps - OneDrive and Dropbox - and they still don't show up on my laptop. Frustrating!

 The day after Christmas, we headed to Barnes and Noble for our annual pick-up of calendars, planners, and Christmas cards ~ all at 50% off.

I've already taken down the Christmas decorations and last night, Brian helped me pack them away. We take all the decor down to the basement family room, lay the items out on the bar, drag the Tote bins out from storage, and get busy. We're always supervised by a cat.

I've always been like this, where on the 26th I declare, "Christmas is over! I'm done enjoying it to the point where I'm kind of sick of all the clutter. I know some of you can relate and others can't fathom taking down Christmas decorations until at least after January 1st. It's a personal choice and it's all good, no matter what you decide to do. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

getting ready ~ and a general update

Where to even begin? This time of year is crazy for most everyone. Between all the Christmas prep, get-togethers with friends and family, and all the regular errands and household stuff, it's enough to make anyone stressed out.

 Our weather has been mild lately, so I did take some time out to walk in the State Park this weekend. I usually just walk around the neighborhood, which becomes a little boring and stale. The State Park was peaceful with beautiful views and the crisp air felt so good. I paused to take some deep, cleansing breaths and went home feeling more relaxed but yet energized.

 And last night, Brian and I bundled up and took a night walk around our neighborhood. I don't walk alone in the dark, so walking at night was a different - and very refreshing - experience. We stopped to look in amazement at all the stars in the sky and to admire neighbor's Christmas lights. This one house in our neighborhood puts lights on the gigantic pine tree in their front yard. You can estimate the size of the tree by the house in the background. It's spectacular to see in person. I think walking outdoors will come to a halt next week when our highs are forecasted to be in the teens. 😒

I think I'm finally ready for Christmas. I'm working tonight on the last of my baking. Are you familiar with Nanaimo bars? It's a three-layer Canadian dessert, named after the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. I don't know what prompted me to think of them this year - I haven't had them in many years - but I got the urge to make them. I ordered the Bird's custard powder from amazon. Click here for the recipe if you're interested.

My darling girl, Clementine isn't doing too well. She'd been seeing a veterinary dermatologist for skin issues and through blood and urine tests, this vet suspected possible kidney issues. We were then referred to an internal medicine vet, who did more blood and urine tests plus an ultrasound. Clementine does indeed have the beginnings of kidney disease. She only has approximately a couple more years to live. She is only 8-9 years old and cats can easily live until they're 20+, so we are absolutely heartbroken to know that her life will be cut short. 

My "baby" turned 27 yesterday. How did this happen in the blink of an eye? This is a recent photo of him with Zippo - our 18-1/2 year old fur baby. You might recall from other recent posts that Zippo has glaucoma, cataracts, and thyroid disease. He's doing really well under the care of an eye vet (so many specialists, even for animals!) and his regular vet. But we know our time is limited with him, too because of his age and illnesses. He's also mostly deaf and a bit senile, but for his age, it comes with the territory. It does bring me peace of mind to know that he's had a good, long life full of lots of love. Tim found him outside on our property when he was only a few months old.

This weekend will be busy...a get-together with friends at a wine bar on Friday night; lunch with the in-laws on Saturday; Christmas Eve festivities with extended family on Sunday and then finally ~ a quiet Christmas at home with just the three of us and the cats.

Wishing all of you much love, good health and blessings this holiday season!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

touches of christmas at comfy house

Now that the focus is all about Christmas, it seems like Thanksgiving was months ago, doesn't it? Since I haven't posted since before Thanksgiving - which, hard to believe was just two weeks ago - I had to share at least one Thanksgiving photo with you. I didn't take many photos this year, but this was one of my favorites: My sister and brother-in-law's new rescue pup, Piper eyeballing the ham that my brother-in-law and Brian were carving.

So, here we all are getting ready for Christmas (or any other December holiday you celebrate). Every year I tell myself I'm not going to do as much as I did the year before and yes, I have been pretty good about this. But somehow it still gets a little crazy. This year, one of the things I cut back on was the decorating. I dragged out all my decorations, went through everything, and ended up using half of what I had. Even with our little Christmas tree, I went minimal with the ornaments.

Bits of Christmas cheer in the kitchen...

In the living room, a vintage sleigh and mouse grace the entry table.

We don't put up a large tree anymore. Haven't done so ever since Phil passed away. None of us have the desire for a big tree and now we feel like it's too much work. Instead, we put up this tabletop tree on the buffet and adorn it with a few ornaments from Phil and Tim's childhoods. I kept the area beside the tree sparse, as this is where I'll put the presents after I wrap them.

Dig my new kitty runner! I couldn't resist when I saw this at HomeGoods last week. 

A small tree by the bookcase...

On the bookcase, a silver _______ (what would you call this?) I found it years ago at Goodwill, still in its original box. I don't think it's an angel. I guess I should see if the box tells what it is, but I certainly don't feel like digging through storage boxes again until it's time to box the decorations back up.

This photo collage of the boys when they were little comes out every Christmas.

Looking from the kitchen into the living room...

This is my first Christmas decorating a mantel. It probably needs garland of some sort, but maybe next year.

Not Christmasy on top of the end table, but I wanted to show you two recent purchases. There's a couple of women from my former yoga class that have a small local business where they make hand-poured soy wax candles from recycled wine and beer bottles. This is my latest purchase of one of their creations. I really liked this wine bottle label. (And yes, I have bought wine just because of a cool label.) The scent is really nice, too. It's called Harvest, so it smells like pumpkin, cinnamon and cloves, with a hint of sweetness. The felted wool coasters are from another local business where the owner travels all over the world and brings back artisan treasures. These were handmade in Mexico.

My aunt made this ceramic reindeer and sleigh many years ago and gifted it to me. It's one Christmas decoration that will have a place of honor every year. This little nook is at the end of the hallway.

And thus ends the tour of Christmasy Comfy House. I don't decorate our bedroom or my office/yoga room (formerly Phil's bedroom) except for a couple of tchotckes.

How's your holiday decorating/shopping/wrapping/baking/partying going?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

thanksgiving food prep, a pretty little store, and gratefulness

I am not hosting Thanksgiving this year; my sister is. But, of course, me and my mom help out by cooking and bringing food. This year I'm making cranberry relish (made with maple syrup and orange juice); corn pudding casserole; green bean casserole (not the one made with cream of mushroom soup and canned fried onions; I avoid prepared foods with artificial ingredients whenever possible...I found a recipe on the internet where you make your own creamy sauce and crunchy onion topping); glazed carrots with maple syrup, orange juice, and rosemary; and for an appetizer - dill pickle dip. You gotta try this dip. It's incredibly addicting.

I prepared and chopped so many vegetables today, my hand was actually sore. This is two pounds of green beans that I snapped and then cut in half for the green bean casserole.

Here's something that wasn't part of my food prep plans. This is what happens when you're not being mindful and rushing around. I went outside onto my front porch to throw the carrot scraps to the birds and squirrels. I lost my footing and started to fall. The wooden railing scraped the underside of my arm when I was falling. Could've been much worse, so I'm grateful this was my only injury. 

Even though I don't decorate my house for Christmas until after Thanksgiving, I do enjoy looking at the Christmas decor in stores around this time. For those of you who live in the area, there's a new store in East Dundee, IL called Midwest Retro. I ended up buying a pair of handmade lined wool mittens (not pictured) that are so warm! I really needed them. All I had was a couple of pairs of cheap, not-warm-enough gloves.

 I am grateful for those of you out there who take the time to read my little blog, leave comments, and email me. I am so blessed by your friendship.
Thank you. 💗

Thursday, November 9, 2017

herbs and leaves

The temps finally dipped enough two nights ago where we had a hard freeze. I was amazed to find yesterday that the parsley, sage, rosemary and not thyme, but chives, were still intact and actually looking vibrant.

I know these fresh herbs aren't going to last much longer, especially with tonight's temps going down to 16F, so I gathered what I could.

I froze the herbs using an easy method from Cathy at My 1929 Charmer. Click here for instructions. I know you can finely chop herbs and then put them in ice cube trays with water, but that limits what you can do with the herbs. Sure, it's easy to drop an ice cube into a pot of stew or soup, but what about when I want fresh rosemary for roasted potatoes? Now I can just reach into a freezer bag and pick off what I need, no water involved.

Even the parsley flower buds were put to use...I love the lacey look in an old milk bottle.

The hard freeze made all the difference for the trees. Just a couple of days ago, Brian and I were marveling at all the leaves still clinging to the trees, and yesterday the leaves were fluttering to the ground like raindrops. The huge maple tree across the street is now completely bare, but it sure left a colorful carpet on the ground.

I had put all my leftover baby pumpkins and gourds on a bench in my side yard for the squirrels and with the falling leaves, nature made this beautiful vignette. 

Brian had the day off work a couple of days ago and we took one of our little day trips. We took a walk in our favorite park along Lake Michigan. See how beautiful the trees still were?

And then there's last night's waning light through the now-bare trees, which has a haunting beauty all its own.

It always makes me a little sad to see the bare trees, but then I read somewhere that said we can now see more sky. I try to look for the positives.

It's a cloudy, windy day but I'm bundling up and heading out to the grocery store. I need fresh veggies to make a pot of vegetable soup this afternoon. There's nothing like the aroma of a pot of soup simmering on the stove on these blustery days. And now I'll be able to reach in my freezer and get fresh herbs to use in my soup, too. Doesn't get much better than that.