Friday, August 23, 2019

full on summer mode

"We're steeped deep in summer
And everything around me
Seems to indicate it'll never end..."

You would never know by all the photos and talk about fall on Instagram that we still have a month of summer left. It's still August, people! I don't understand this rushing of seasons (OK, winter is excluded in that statement) and holidays. I am soaking up every bit of summer that I can. I went to the local farm stand today and they already had up fall and Halloween decorations! Behind the cash register was a "Happy Halloween" banner. It all looked so out of place with baskets of tomatoes, piles of fresh-picked corn, and bushels of zucchini and cucumbers displayed throughout the store.
Summer seems so short here in northern Illinois. Our winters drag out with never-ending gray skies, bitter cold and snow. And this spring was nothing but rain ~ and even more snow. So I am filled with gratitude for these few short months of warmth and sunshine and have no intentions of rushing them.

"But still I'm spending time
Looking for the subtle signs
Trying to figure out when
We've reached peak summer..."

My butterfly garden is telling me it's late summer...sedum starting to bloom is a sure sign.

 Phlox is looking a little pitiful and bee balm is withered up. 

 But look how beautiful and lush my herb garden is! Yes, I was one of those silly people who planted mint in back of the herb garden many years ago. Everyone told me I'd regret it; that'd I'd have mint all over the place. Honestly, it hasn't been that bad. I pull some out here and there throughout the summer so that it doesn't overtake the other herbs, but it stays contained to this small area. 

Farmers markets this time of year are still filled with summer goodness...

 Last weekend, we came home with a ton of fresh produce and I made a big pot of ratatouille based on Alice Water's recipe. My modifications were roasting the eggplant first, using a combination of onions and shallots, using both green and yellow squash/zucchini, adding more spices and a teeny bit of sugar, throwing in a splash of red wine vinegar, and stirring in some black olives and capers. 

Served over a bed of creamy polenta with a garnish of fresh Parmesan cheese ~ this dish was absolutely delightful!

"When the sun sets a little earlier
And gets a little more noticeable
Each night, night after night
Until you start thinking about
How much daylight you've lost..."

"All of the signs and all of the things
I've been noticing are telling me
That we're right in the midst of
Peak summer and if I'm not careful
It'll be completely over
And I'll have missed it entirely
As the season folds into fall."
(Peak Summer - Eric Nixon)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

weekend birthday

Last Saturday was my birthday. As usual, I chose to celebrate it simply, which meant a day trip to Cedarburg, Wisconsin with Brian.

Cedarburg is a small, charming town 20 minutes north of Milwaukee that's known for getaways. We've spent the night here before at two of their B&Bs, but mostly we just drive up for the day.

The main street is filled with unique shops, restaurants, museums, art galleries, and beautiful flowers.

We had lunch outside on the patio right by the creek, then walked over to the winery for a tasting. A couple of years ago, I met a friend in Cedarburg and we did three wine tastings in a row. Afterwards, we were sitting in Adirondack chairs in the sunshine, feeling relaxed and a little giggly. A woman walking by with her dog looked at us and said, "You two look so happy!" I behaved myself this time and did just the one wine tasting.

 Then off we went down the street to explore some of the cool shops. This one had just about every kind of interesting yard decor you could want. Or not want.

 How about a pig grill for $1125.00?

This is the only way I like mushrooms - faux, cute and cheery.

 Wonder if anyone buys this stuff in the winter?

Weeds is one of my favorite shops in Cedarburg. The store is filled with items that are organic, fair-trade, recycled and handmade. They have a huge assortment of loose-leaf teas and the ones I've tried are delicious. My favorite is called Secret Garden - an organic blend of chamomile, lavender, peppermint, rooibos and rose petals. I like it iced. When I run out of my favorites and I know I'm not going to be in Cedarburg anytime soon, I just order online. Their prices are fair and so is their shipping. If you're a tea lover or want to order a lovely gift for a tea lover, check out their assortment here! This is not a sponsored post ~ I'm just sharing a favorite store and their products that I truly enjoy.

Another thing I love about this store is that it's filled with plants for sale, especially succulents. They even have a garden right next to their building that customers are allowed to browse.

Check out these beautiful plants and the way they have them displayed...

 We got home that evening just in time to watch our town's fireworks display. Our little town has a weekend fest every summer and it ends with a fabulous fireworks display over the lake that attracts over 10,000 people. When a friend of mine lived in a house right on the lake, we used to go to her house for the evening and watch the fireworks from her front deck. But now that she no longer lives there, we'd have to join the 10,000 other people all over the grassy areas. Which means if we'd want a spot to sit down, we'd have to walk to the lake hours before the fireworks and stake our spots. No thanks!

I'll be honest ~ I don't like fireworks anymore. As I've gotten older, I find they're too loud for me. It also upsets me to know that the noise scares off the ducks, geese, swans and birds that reside in the bushes and aquatic plants along the lake. That's their home. I have read that sometimes birds even die from the noise and light of the sudden explosions: they take off and fly into trees and houses at top speed. Dogs and cats are terrified of fireworks, too. I can hear all the neighborhood dogs barking and howling when the fireworks go off. My cats used to cower under the bed all night, but now we put in them in the basement ahead of time with a fan set on high to try and block out some of the noise. Monkey was still so terrified the next morning that he freaked out at every little noise. Then there's the matter of the debris and chemicals from the fireworks going into the lake, therefore poisoning the fish and other aquatic creatures. And...of course, there's the veterans with PTSD.

Since I don't have any control over the fireworks display, I just watch them from the steps of the side door to my house.

I am blessed to have taken another trip around the sun. 
Every morning that we wake up is a gift. ๐Ÿ’“
Have a beautiful week and enjoy what's left of summer.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

books and coffee shops

Two of my favorite things in life are books and coffee shops. The more quaint, eccentric or charming a coffee shop is, the more I like it. Especially if it's not crowded and the music isn't blasting. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 

This is my current reading stack for August, though doubt I will finish. I usually have one non-fiction and one fiction book going at the same time. But in this case, the only book in this stack that I'm currently reading is The Invitation. The book expounds on Oriah's poem of the same name. Are you familiar with it? Here's how it starts out:

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

 It's a little lengthy to type out or copy and paste here, so if you'd like to read the entire poem, you can do so here.

And then, bookstores ~

I discovered a new (to me) coffee shop the other day while in a neighboring town.

 I was pleasantly surprised when I walked in to discover such a charming shop.There were several rooms, all filled with different wooden tables, mismatched chairs, and bookcases filled with tchotchkes and used books for sale.

When I first saw this room, there was a young woman reading in one of the chairs in back, and two other women sitting at the table, quietly chatting. The room you see at the back is a children's room, complete with high chairs, little tables and chairs, toys and books.

This will be a great spot in the winter to curl up in one of those leather chairs by the fireplace with a nice hot cup of coffee or tea. Not that I'm looking forward to winter, by any means! Just saying.

I didn't have much time to browse the books, nor read one myself while drinking my herbal iced tea, but I can't wait to go back one day when I have more time.

Do you have any independent coffee shops in your area that you especially love? What are you reading this month?