Tuesday, January 30, 2018

for the love of plants

There's not many January days in the Midwest where the sun is shining and temperatures are in the 40's. But when it happens, you take advantage of it. Because, heat wave. At least, that's what it feels like when you're used to frigid temps. In this case, we headed up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin this past Saturday ~ one of our go-to places to explore and hang out.

(St. Hegwig - Three Holy Women Parish, Milwaukee)

We always stop at the Public Market to browse the different vendors and sometimes get a bite to eat for lunch. 

One of my favorite stores in Milwaukee is Mod Gen ~ they have all kind of unique products and kitschy gift items, plus they have a fabulous selection of plants. And when I saw they were having a 20% off plant sale, well, let's just say I wanted to buy out the store.

So, what came home with me? I restrained myself and only bought two plants:

A Money Tree (which needs to be repotted)...

and a little red air plant.

Another houseplant I picked up recently (at IKEA) was this Gold Dust Croton. If you have an IKEA near you, they have a decent selection of plants and great prices.

Most of my plants are in our spare room because of all the wonderful light this room gets, but it's getting a little crowded in here.

I'm going to be working on some rearranging and also thinking vertically ~ meaning, hanging a plant or two in front of the windows. Hmm, maybe I can find a cool, retro planter like this one!

(Brewed Cafe, Milwaukee)

How about you, do you have a green thumb? Do you have houseplants or perhaps succulents (which I love, but can't keep alive) in your home?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

vintage findings

Yesterday it was damp but temps were 52 degrees - which is basically a heatwave for us in January. I opened my living room and kitchen windows to air out the house. The air smelled like the promise of spring. The cats kept sticking their noses in the open windows, too, sniffing all that crisp, fresh air.

Today, we woke up to this.

Ah, Illinois weather...you keep us on our toes.

This weekend, me and my mom popped into one of our favorite antique shops. Not only did we find some pretty treasures, but everything was 20% off. This vintage tablecloth is in perfect condition and fits my kitchen table just right. Monkey gives his approval.

Don't mind the tags sticking out of the back of the chair cushions. Those are new ones from IKEA and I wanted to make sure we really liked them and wanted to keep them before removing the tags. We do indeed like them - they are very comfortable and I think they look good - so the tags are now cut off. Just a heads up to anyone looking for kitchen chair cushions: you can't beat the price at IKEA. These were only $5 each. Our previous foam filled cushions were from Bed, Bath and Beyond and were $15 each. The foam in the cushions flattened rather quickly and became hard and uncomfortable. 

Close-up of the tablecloth. Looks spring-like, doesn't it? Only 55 more days, but who's counting? ;-)

I hesitated about this Limoges dish. I've always been attracted to Limoges. I love the patterns, the delicacy, the gold rims. Limoges was my maternal grandma's favorite, too. I'd never seen a piece like this before.

One edge curves seductively up. So unique. So, why did I hesitate about buying this? After all, the price was only $8. Because I didn't know where I was going to put it. I've been more aware of what I'm bringing into the house, especially since I've been working on decluttering and donating. I had the owner of the shop put this aside for me to think about as I looked around. In the end, Limoges won. And now sits on top of a table in our spare room, showing off its delicate charm and beauty.

Isn't this a cool vintage tin? It was made in Massilly, France. I'm using it to hold pens, a dry highlighter and sticky page markers. It sits on top of my current reading pile and notebook on the coffee table in the living room. Pretty and handy all at the same time.

In a little nook in the back of the shop, sat this rag rug on top of the worn carpet. I didn't realize it was for sale until I saw a tag. The rug was dirty from customer foot traffic, but my mom said I could easily throw this rug into the washing machine. I loved the colors and had a feeling it'd look good in my kitchen. Sure enough, it washed fine and I hung it to dry. I think it looks great by my side kitchen door and it adds cheery color and texture to the room.

Have you found any vintage treasures lately?

Monday, January 15, 2018

light, comfy and serene ~ and my car news

 Good morning from snowy Illinois! It started snowing late last night and we have a few inches on the ground right now. I am sitting on the couch in my living room and all I can see is a big tree with the snow gently falling. I have to admit, it's very peaceful looking. 

Ever since I took down my Christmas decorations and January rolled around, I knew I wanted my house to feel and look lighter. I guess it's the whole "clean start" feeling of January. I've even been cleaning out drawers, files, and a closet.

Lighter doesn't have to mean sterile and cold. You can still make a room feel warm and inviting with the use of texture, layers, throws, candles, and twinkle lights.

Last week, I had a lovely visit with a neighbor whom I'm getting to know better. We've known each other on a casual basis for many years, but lately through social media, we've gotten to know each other more. We decided to have tea and chat at her house. We were discussing our homes and decor. She said, "I get the feeling that your house is serene." I hope it's both comfy and serene!


Maybe I'm also craving a fresh feeling in my home as we go through these long, dark winter nights...but yet are now moving towards more light.

It doesn't matter what decorating trend or colors you like and incorporate into your home; what matters is that your home is your safe refuge from the world. Your nest. Your serene and comfortable place to relax and just be.

In other news...in my last post, I had written about my 2001 Honda Accord misfiring. I was waiting to hear from the mechanic and hoping it wasn't bad news; i.e., something expensive, like the engine. Turned out to be good news! It only needed some tune-up parts. The expenses were reasonable. However, last week the rear wheel locked up while Brian was driving the car into a tire place to get one of the tires looked at. Turned out to be the rear brakes. Since this was an emergency situation, we had to get the car fixed there. That wasn't pretty. These chain places are known to inflate their prices and try to upsell. Instead of getting upset about the bill, we let it go because we knew there wasn't anything we could do. We were just thankful that Brian didn't get into an accident, that he was right near a car shop when the wheel locked up, and that my car is fine now. Hooray - no car shopping just yet!

Have a blessed, light-filled, serene week.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

soup weather ~ and car update

 We finally hit a balmy 13 degrees today. Feels like a heat wave compared to the sub-zero temps we'd been having.

We eat a lot of soup in the winter and I love making up my own recipes. This is the soup I made last night - Italian Sausage and Fennel soup. You won't believe how good your house smells when this is cooking. Brian walked in the door from work and exclaimed, "It smells so good in here!" We all ate two bowls full for dinner. And there was enough leftover for lunches today. If you don't want to make that much, just halve the recipe.

I absolutely love fennel. It has a strong anise (think licorice) scent and mild flavor when raw. Don't let this deter you. I hate licorice, but I love fennel. This doesn't taste anything like the candy! It's delicious sliced thinly and incorporated into a salad. As for cooking, it mellows and becomes almost undiscernible. In fact, next time I make this, I'm going to use two fennel bulbs. We loved this soup so much, we all had two bowls each last night. Give it a try. Anyone can make homemade soup. The hardest part is chopping the veggies!

1 lb bulk mild Italian sausage
1 T extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil
1 - 2 bulbs fennel (depending on the size & your preference), diced
2 leeks, diced (be sure to use only the white & light green parts &
rinse thoroughly - the layers can contain sand & grit)
3 small carrots, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 - 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes or tomato puree
6-8 cups broth (chicken and/or vegetable)*
Sprinkling of red pepper flakes
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tsp each oregano & thyme
1/2 cup ditalini
1 5 oz pkg baby spinach
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat the olive or avocado oil (don't use toxic oils such as vegetable or canola) and add the Italian sausage. Cook on medium heat, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until cooked completely. Remove sausage from pot with a slotted spoon, onto a plate lined with paper towels to catch the grease.

Add fennel, leeks, carrots and garlic to the pot. Cook on medium-low heat for about 5-7 minutes, until veggies are slightly tender. Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of broth, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, oregano & thyme. Stir to incorporate. Bring mixture to a soft boil and add the ditalini. Turn heat back down to low and let simmer for 8 minutes, until the pasta is cooked. Stir in the baby spinach. Ladle into bowls and serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

*You may find while the pasta is cooking or even when the soup is done, that you need to add more broth. The pasta absorbs a lot of the liquid. I used more than 1/2 cup ditalini in my recipe and if you do the same (if you like a lot of noodles), then you will need to add more broth.

 On a totally different note, I am holding my breath until the mechanic calls me by the end of the day about my car. He called yesterday to tell me he at least knew it was engine misfire (I knew that, too - from a Google search) and that he'd be looking into why the engine misfire today. There's several things it could be; some minor, some major. We are hoping for the minor, of course. This is a Honda Accord and yes, it's old (it's a 2001) but it only has 156,000 miles on it, which is "nothing" for a Honda. To-date, it's never given me any problems except for routine maintenance. I sure don't want to be car shopping in this frigid weather...heck, I don't want to be car shopping at any time, but I know that's life. And I also dread the thought of car payments again. I wouldn't be buying a brand-new vehicle; I'd be looking for a used one. But even a good used vehicle is pricey these days. I'm getting ahead of myself, so on that note, I am going to have a cup of chamomile tea and then do my daily yoga.