Monday, July 31, 2017

almost august already ~ and zippo

 I can't believe tomorrow brings the month of August already. This summer has flown by. I know I say that every year, but really and truly - this summer has seemed exceptionally quick. Only seven weeks left of this gorgeous season - boo, hiss! Just this weekend I was out and about by Lake Michigan, enjoying the beautiful (and windy!) weather. Oh, how I'll miss this.

Some of my flowers and perennials are thriving in the heat and overabundance of rain; others have died off or look just plain terrible...pansies, lobelia, bleeding heart, a poppy plant and bishop's cap. 

 I think cone flowers can take pretty much anything.

Same with phlox. In fact, this bunch of it is in the butterfly garden and it's overtaken the butterfly bush. Poor plant's branches are creeping along the ground instead of reaching for the sky. Evening update: Brian was going to dig up some of the phlox but it was too imbedded in-between the branches of the butterfly bush. We ended up using garden clippers to clip a lot of the phlox down as low as we could go. Now the butterfly bush has some breathing room.

The tiger lilies are pretty much done. This is the last of them.

 Russian Sage is another perennial that thrives no matter what the weather. Just like with the purple coneflower and the phlox, I've never watered this plant or done anything else. 

 Prairie Wild Onion in the ditch by our driveway is in full bloom right now. This is a native wildflower that we've divided a few times. 

In other news, I'm really worried about Zippo. He was 18 in May and has been doing well for his age. His right eye started getting cloudy over a year ago and the vet said he had glaucoma. This morning when I got up, I noticed Zippo's right eye was closed. I was hoping he just got a piece of dust in his eye. Then I went to feed the cats and Zippo wouldn't eat. Huge red flag - he's normally a chowhound. I tried sticking his bowl in front of his face several times and he finally ate his food by the front door.

He then jumped up on the blue chair in the living room and promptly went to sleep. Another sign that things weren't well. He's normally pretty active after breakfast. I called the vet and they were booked solid, but the receptionist said she could try to squeeze us in between appointments.

When Zippo woke up from his nap, I gave him his catnip bag to play with. Clementine came over to investigate and Zippo started washing her and continued for a couple of minutes. It was so sweet.

Zippo saw a different vet, as our regular vet (Dr C) wasn't in. They first took his weight and he only weighs 8 lbs. 2 oz. Not good. During his young, more healthy years, he weighed 16 lbs. And at his last vet checkup less than a year ago, he weighed 10 lbs. This vet asked if Zippo was  on any medication for his glaucoma and I said no. I asked, "Should he be?" The vet said, "Yes. Glaucoma is very painful." I said, "Then why didn't Dr. C ever give him anything?" I didn't get an answer. I am heartbroken that Zippo has been in pain this long and I didn't even know it. And I'm also mad Dr C. This isn't the first time that I've had problems with him. Needless to say, I'll be looking for a new vet. 

The tech wasn't able to get blood from Zippo today - he became very agitated and the tech told me his veins were very small and "rolly", which is normal for an elderly cat. They referred me to a veterinary eye specialist, whom Zippo will be seeing on Thursday. I had to make a down payment via credit card of $198 just to keep my appointment spot. This will cover just the general exam. I have a feeling this is going to be very expensive. But when you sign up to be a pet parent, this is the risk you take. Zippo has had other things happen to him in the past - two urinary blockages and injuries - that have also cost a lot of money. We nicknamed him our Million Dollar Kitty years ago.

(Zippo with his "good" eye)

Hope you all have a good week. 
Happy August!

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Brian had a birthday a couple of days ago and as he wished, we spent the day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We went to the Milwaukee Public Market...

walked around the neighborhood, poking our heads into Anthropologie and Goodwill Restore, then we happened upon this new store called Mod Gen.

To me, it was like Anthro, only no clothing and a lot less expensive.
There were also plants everywhere you looked...

The Birthday Boy took a liking to this 1960's sofa.

We had lunch at a thai food restaurant and then did some more walking, stopping in a specialty market and an independent coffee shop. We should've had lunch at this restaurant on the rooftop deck. Doesn't it look like the  perfect lunch spot on a summer day? Oh well, perhaps next year.

Drinks, dessert, bacon...what more could you want?

Speaking of birthdays and dessert, here's a photo of my precious Philip back in 2003. He wasn't quite 15 yet. We were on a family vacation in Cancun, Mexico - the only "real" family vacation we ever had. His birthday was July 21st. He would've been 29 this year. Brian, Tim and I went out to dinner at an Italian place - Phil's favorite food - to celebrate his life.

 Since Phil passed away when he was 21, it's hard for us to imagine him at 29. We wonder what he'd look like, what job he'd have, who he'd be living with...would he have a girlfriend? A wife? Would he be a daddy? 

"The expression of love to another is not reserved for a single day or for a special event or occasion like an anniversary for a birthday. The celebration of love is more about how you live each day with the ones you love and care for. " 
(Byron Pulsifer)

Monday, July 24, 2017

what to do about those blank walls

Ever since we had some work done in our kitchen and it was repainted, I've been hesitant to hang anything on the walls. I didn't want to hang what we had there before, and I also didn't want to hang "just anything" for the sake of filling up blank wall space. I had shopped at a few places and brought wall art home with me, only to find it didn't look as good as I had hoped. I didn't find anything I was looking for online either.

One day, I was in the basement doing laundry, and was looking around at some of my home decor stash. I brought up this white frame and yellow tray, affixed it to the kitchen wall with Command strips, and stood back...

 I liked it!

Here's what the kitchen wall looks like in its entirety. You can see I still need something on the other side of the china cabinet. But here's the thing: I think I want to get rid of the china cabinet, the cart and stool and instead put a cube storage unit on that wall. I could then fill the cubes with cookbooks, large serving dishes, and small kitchen appliances that I have stored in the basement. But I don't think Brian's too keen on the idea of getting rid of the china cabinet. It has sentimental value. It was the first good piece of furniture that we bought in our early married days. We bought it at a beautiful vintage furniture store that is now out of business. There's nowhere else in the house to put it.

Here's what I had in mind: the IKEA Kallax cubes - turned on its side, of course. We could even put legs on the bottom of it to raise it up a bit. 

When I was in the basement rummaging around, I also brought up these two canvas pieces and again, used Command strips to hang them on an empty section of the living room wall. Command strips are a lifesaver in my house because I change things around all the time! Not to mention, no nail holes to deal with.

Where do you find unique ideas or art for blank walls?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

skeeters and water in my 'hood ~ and my latest book stack

In my last post, I mentioned that we hired a mosquito-spraying service for the summer. I said how the mosquitoes are rampant here due to all the trees and nearby water. I didn't elaborate that the mosquitoes were so bad, that friends and family that came to our house would complain that they were "eaten alive" just from walking from their car to our front door. Or, that every time we opened a door, mosquitoes would fly in - and that our kitchen and living room walls had dots of blood on them from smashing the skeeters. Or, that we couldn't do yard work or even water the outdoor plants without being doused in bug spray (which we'd immediately wash off when we came indoors) and/or wearing jeans and long-sleeved shirts. Not so much fun when it's sweltering out there.

Another blogger commented about trying alternative methods such as citronella candles, fans, and mosquito plants. We've tried all those things except for the fans - we don't have any electrical outlets near the patio - and more. If there's any natural treatment or remedy out there, we've tried it. Citronella candles didn't make one bit of difference - and we had them everywhere - even citronella torches lining the patio. Mosquito plants - also known as citronella plants - do NOT work! Contrary to what you might think (I did when I first saw them and bought a few last year) - the plant does not repel mosquitoes, nor does it even have any citronella oil in the leaves. It's a geranium! See HERE for more info. Save your money, folks. The plants aren't even pretty. ;-) 

So! I thought I'd show you what my area looks like, just a short walk down my street - the reason why we have so many mosquitoes here. This area is surrounded by trees, thick brush, bogs, ponds, lakes, creeks, and a State Park. Here's a walkway to one of the canals that lead to a lake by my house. Does it look like Mosquito Haven to you yet? Let's take a walk down the path to that canal...

Here we are. As you can see, the waterways here are stagnant. No motorized boats are allowed on the lake or these canals. 

Looking to the right. Pretty gross, eh?

You can even see how the surrounding area is marshy.
A mosquito's dream!

All this is not to say that I think commercial mosquito spray is safe. It's not the foggy DDT spray from the neighborhood trucks that we remember from the 1970's, but it's still a chemical. Just my humble opinion, but if I were pregnant or had little kids at home, I most likely wouldn't be doing this. I keep all the windows on my house closed when they spray. And they only spray the grass, trees and bushes surrounding our yard. They do not spray any flowering plants or vegetation. 

Speaking of water, you might have heard about the deluge of rain and consequent flooding we had here in northern Illinois last week. There are still road closures in my area and houses surrounded flood water. We were so lucky that we were spared - not even a flooded basement like we've had in the past. This is my friend's mother's house just 15 minutes away. My friend is having to travel around the house and neighborhood by kayak! She posts photos on Facebook every day - this was day one. Today is day six and my friend said the water is down about four inches. However, we're due for more rain tonight and into the weekend. Scary stuff.

Before I show you my new library book stack, I wanted to talk about this book from my last library stash. If you're the parent of a child who's getting ready to go away to college (or even within the next year or two); already have a child in college; are an educator; or, are a young adult in college yourself; this book is a must-read! Let me say that I already knew a little about the hook-up culture, especially in college, but I had no clue how rampant it was and all the details that go into it. Talk about eye-opening...and horrifying. From the inside jacket cover of the book:

"The hookup is now part of college life. Yet the drunken encounter we always hear about tells only a fraction of the story. Rising above misinformation and moralizing, Lisa Wade offers the definitive account of this new sexual culture and demonstrates that the truth is both more heartening and more harrowing than we thought.
Offering invaluable insights for parents, educators, and students, Wade situates hookup culture within the history of sexuality, the evolution of higher education, and the unfinished feminist revolution. Using new research, she maps out a punishing emotional landscape marked by unequal pleasures, competition for status, and sexual violence. She discovers that the most privileged students tend to like hookup culture the most, and she considers its effects on racial and sexual minorities, students who “opt out,” and those who participate ambivalently.
Accessible and open-minded, compassionate and brutally honest, American Hookup explains where we are and how we got here, asking not “How do we go back?” but “Where do we go from here?” "

One of my errands today was returning library books, and of course, I came home with another stack. You can probably tell that I read a lot of non-fiction.

Have you read any of these books? 
What are you reading now? are the mosquitoes where you live?

Monday, July 17, 2017

home care

I know it's been over two weeks since I published a blog post. It's been a busy summer. Lots of get-togethers with friends and family, more time spent outside and not on my laptop, and I'm still in physical therapy two days per week. My knee is doing great, but now I'm having lower back and hip problems, all related to the knee. All will be well: Besides my regular scheduled physical therapy, I recently had an hour massage that focused on my problem areas, and I plan to have another massage in a couple of weeks. I'm also going to return to a regular yoga class next week.

Not much is new around here, but I thought I'd show you some things we got for the house recently, as well as the goings-on in the yard.

We got new windows last week! With the house being 27 years old, we were definitely due. Now to get rid of the ugly, faux wood trim around all the windows. We contacted our contractor about doing all the trim as well as a couple of other projects and he and his crew are book until November! So, looks like the ugly trim will be staying for awhile longer.

Tim had been trying to talk us into getting a toaster oven. Claimed it was so convenient not to turn on the oven, especially when cooking a small meal, or reheating something that wouldn't turn out as well in the microwave. With not wanting to heat up the kitchen in the summer by turning on the oven, we finally bit the bullet. We wanted a quality toaster oven, so we chose this Breville Smart Oven. I'm loving it! I've roasted veggies, baked chicken breasts, sweet potatoes and cookies, and we also use it to make toast instead of dragging out the toaster - which is now packed away in the basement.

Speaking of cooking, isn't this French enameled cast iron Dutch oven a beaut? It's made by Fontignac - a division of Staub, if you're familiar with them. Staub, Le Creuset, take your pick. Both excellent cookware. When I got a promotional email from Costco over the Fourth of July weekend about this Fontignac Dutch oven, I did my research on the quality and pricing and found both the reviews and Costco's pricing excellent. I have yet to actually use this pot'll be perfect in the fall and winter for soups, stews, spaghetti sauce, etc.

Now for something quirky and pillows!

They're from IKEA - and only $3.99 each! They were purrfect (sorry, I had to) for the casual, modern furniture - coincidentally enough, all from IKEA - in the basement family room.

Around the yard...

Hostas are beautiful as is, but even moreso at this time of year when they're showing off their purple spiky blossoms.

Gazanias are my new-to-me favorite flower this year. They're the ones poking out of the double green pail and the beige planter below the green pail.


The Joe Pye Weed by the patio has really spread, as it's known to do. I think this will be the year where we'll have to dig some up and plant it elsewhere. Did you know bees love Joe Pye Weed? Once it blooms - and you can see how the blooms are starting on mine - the bees will be all over them.

We've been enjoying a lot of patio-sitting, from morning coffee, to afternoon breaks, to evening relaxation. One of the best things we've done is to hire a mosquito-spraying service. The mosquitoes are rampant here due to all the trees and water (have a nearby lake with lots of creeks) and our little village doesn't spray for mosquitoes. We've never been able to enjoy our patio except in the early spring and late fall. Silly us - wish we had've thought of the mosquito spraying service years ago! This spray also repels ticks, so it's a win-win. Normally, we're against any kind of chemicals either inside our home or outside, but it also becomes a matter of mosquito and tick-borne illnesses, such as West Nile virus and Lyme Disease.

Purple coneflower and phlox are blooming in the butterfly garden now.

Lamb's Ear is blooming, too...

another plant the bees love.

My hydrangeas aren't big plants - I don't think they get enough sun - but they sure do produce huge, gorgeous blossoms.

I don't think we were too wise with using an old crib mattress as a trellis for KY pole beans. They look more like a tangled mess, and....

they're growing so tall, that they're over the fence. I've been pushing the stalks into the grooves between the fence boards to hold them up! 

The cherry tomato plants are about six feet tall and slowly starting to produce fruit. 

A patch of wild strawberries appeared around the tree stump in the side of the yard. I wonder if they taste good. I think I'll just leave them for Chippy (what I name all chipmunks) or any other wild creatures that might want a snack.

Back yard view. That's the compost bin in the middle of the lilies.

It's a gorgeous Monday here with clear blue skies and temps only in the 70's, so like I mentioned earlier, the laptop is now going off and I'm going outside to do some yard work and enjoy this beautiful day. The heat returns tomorrow and so does a physical therapy session, so there's no time like the present.