Monday, April 27, 2020

working in the yard

Thank you all for your comments and opinions on my last post about my sofa. The majority agreed that I should leave things be until I can shop for a new sofa. I agree. Too much work to change things around. Not worth it.

Yesterday, Sunday, we got a one day reprieve from all the rain and cold temperatures we've been having. It was so wonderful to feel the sun and warmth on our faces once again. We're back to rain again today and looks like we won't see the sun again until Friday. It's bad enough being quarantined for so long, but when you can't even get outside for a walk, it gets pretty darn depressing.

But! Yesterday we took advantage of the beautiful weather and worked on some yard projects. Brian did all the back-breaking work; I dug out weeds, raked, and swept. I normally would've helped a lot more, but I currently have a little medical malady (don't worry, it's nothing serious!) that had me feeling out of sorts. This is our butterfly garden which obviously doesn't have much growing yet. Right now we only have daffodils, sedum and lamb's ear, with appearances being made by phlox, black-eyed susan and columbine. In the summer, it's filled with all those (except the columbine; that fades away), plus bee balm and purple coneflower. We've had this wine bottle border for years, but pulled all the bottles out a couple of weeks ago and scrubbed them with soapy water. Yesterday, Brian "replanted" all the clean wine bottles. Another project on my yard to-do list is power washing that bench to get all the moss off, then painting it.

Brian also laid paver stones along a long garden bed on the north side of our house. We originally had these pavers in the culvert area in front of our house, hoping that someday Brian was going to make some kind of border wall, but it never happened. Besides, our village Public Works department worked on our culverts last week and made them not only more aesthetically pleasing, but functional, too. More on that in another post. 

Looking the other way. You can see that we don't have much growing here. Just some hostas (all of which haven't appeared yet - a monster-sized one appears on the corner every year) and ferns - which are barely poking out of the ground. I'd like to add something for height and interest in this area, but I have no idea what to do. Since this is the north side of our house, it is mostly shade. Might have to use this extra quarantine time to do some gardening research.

 We got our daily walk in this morning before the rain hit. I had to stop and snap this picture of a neighbor's magnolia tree starting to bloom. Isn't it beautiful?

We were going to make a trip to a local, independent garden store today, but then realized that we wouldn't be able to plant anything this week anyway, so why bother. I'd have to keep all the plants on my front porch and even possibly move them into the garage at night, because there's still some nights where it's going down into the 30's.

Have a wonderful week and stay safe!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

front door and decisions, decisions

Oh, hello.

I recently ordered this decal for my front door from an etsy shop called Lighthouse Decals. Something fun; a bit of whimsy. Something we all need these days. 

I've been spending a lot of time online looking for certain needed things for our home: patio cushions and pillows, a rug and chair for Brian's office, a welcome mat for the front porch, an odd-sized frame for a print, a bench or banquette for the kitchen table. It's not pleasant ~ at least not for me. There's too many choices and I end up falling down that internet rabbit hole. Other times, I've bookmarked things I've liked but I'm not completely sure on, or I want to show Brian first. And when I go back to them, they're out-of-stock.

One thing I will not order online is a sofa. Or couch. (Whatever you want to call it.) Too risky. I have to see it in person and sit on it and even lie down on it. When you're spending that much money and it's something non-returnable, no way. We'd looked in person for a sofa at several furniture stores in the past year. We never found anything we were 100% sure about, so we didn't buy. But now that I'm stuck in the house and I stare at our old sofa more than I used to, it's really bothering me.  Side note: excuse the small plate of berries and almonds; I was eating breakfast and thinking about a blog post and got up to take a photo. No staging, just real life.

This sofa is 14 years old. It is worn out. The cushions sink all the way down when you sit on them. There is no support. I can't sit on this sofa for more than 10 minutes without my back killing me. Not to mention, it's permanently discolored despite being professionally cleaned. 

And, my cats used to use the arms of the couch as a scratching post. I have a post by this arm of the sofa now and that's really helped. But the damage is done. We obviously can't go to stores now and sofa shop, so here's what I'm wavering on...

We have an IKEA sofa in the basement family room. It's about eight years old, but hardly used. As empty nesters, Brian and I never use this space in the basement. We have a ranch-style house so everything we need is on the first floor ~ kitchen, living room, bedrooms and bathrooms.

Going down the stairs into the basement, you can see how we have the sofa facing the TV. Which we never watch. Unless we're under a tornado warning and are camped out in the basement, or I'm on the treadmill. Both not frequent events. 😉

One reason we chose this IKEA sofa for the basement was because it came in pieces in a box. There was no way a regular sofa would fit around a corner and through a doorway going down into our basement. So we were able to assemble the sofa from the box right there in the basement.

Can you see where I'm going with this? I was thinking...

We could disassemble this sofa and bring upstairs to put in the living room to temporarily replace the ugly, old tan sofa. After all, even though this sofa is a cheap one, it certainly looks a lot better than what we have in the living room right now. 

But here's the cons: 

  • I'd have to have Brian and our next door neighbor move the living room sofa to....where? Out by the curb and hope that someone picks it up with a day or two? What if they don't? We'd have to put the sofa in the garage and leave my car out on the driveway. For a long time.
  • The disassembling and reassembling of the IKEA sofa is going to be a real pain-in-the-tush.
  • That leaves us without a sofa in the basement and it's going to look weird down there without one. (I know, I know...we don't use this space. It's just an aesthetics thing to me.) And then once we are finally able to furniture shop again and do find a sofa for the living room, the IKEA sofa would once again have to be disassembled, carried back down to the family room, and reassembled.

    Whaddya think? Would you go for it? Or just leave things be until you could finally go sofa shopping in person again?

Friday, April 17, 2020

channeling ina ~ baking and the comforts of home

Hello friends, how's everyone doing out there? No doubt, we're living in a stressful time. Being quarantined for an indefinite amount of time is wearing thin. We're bored, we're lonely, we're anxious, we miss our family and friends, we miss our social activities, we're tired of being cooped up in the house with our partners, we're tired of homeschooling and e-learning and Zoom meetings. These are generalizations across the board...everyone has different circumstances and different things they miss. But, if there's one thing that brings us together - connects us - it's food. 

I happen to idolize Ina Garten, AKA The Barefoot Contessa. Most of her recipes are classic and simple enough for anyone to make. She's authentic and graceful. She knows how to bring people together and can throw a wicked dinner party. And who can't resist when she roasts a chicken for the love of her life, Jeffrey? After 50+ years of marriage, they are still so cute together.

I recently came across an article in The Atlantic about Ina and her Instagram account. "Historically, her Instagram has been exactly what the photo-sharing platform was designed for, a modern update of the song "My Favorite Things": log fires, peonies, whiskey sours, beach days, heart-shaped cookies for Valentine's Day. Treats. Happiness. Most of all, love....Garten has always had an uncanny empathy for how people are doing, and how the emotional resonance of food might be able to help."

So, in the spirit of Ina and connection, I'm sharing a couple of baking recipes with you that I've recently made. If you're a regular follower of my blog, you know that I love to cook and bake. I'm doing moreso now that I'm at home all the time. 

Actual footage of me and my friends after quarantine:

(From the FB page, Christmas 366)

This delicious apple cake is courtesy of my former next-door neighbor, Thanam who moved back to her native country, Malaysia about 14 years ago. I miss her and think about her when I make this cake. It's not a bakery-type cake with frosting. It's the type that goes perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea as a snack. Heck, you could even eat it for breakfast. After all, it does have apples and raisins in it.

2 large Granny Smith apples, finely chopped
1 c. raisins (regular or golden; or can sub chopped dates)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. boiling water
1 stick (8 T.) unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1-1/2 c. unbleached flour

Combine apples, raisins and baking soda in a small bowl. Cover with the boiling water and set aside. Beat butter, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl until light and creamy. Add egg; beat to combine. Pour off most of the water from the apple-raisin mixture. Stir in the flour alternately with the apple-raisin mixture. Pour batter into a greased 8x8" pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Dust with confectioner's sugar.

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This next recipe is healthier ~ and gluten-free, too.

From Real Simple magazine
2 c. almond flour
1-1/2 c. grated carrot
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. each baking soda, salt & ground nutmeg
3 T. melted butter
1/2 c. honey
2 large eggs

Stir the almond flour - ground nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in the melted butter, honey and eggs just until incorporated. Fill greased muffin pan with batter. Bake at 350 degrees F. until set, 18 minutes. Let cool in pan for five minutes. Remove from pan; let cool on wire rack.

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Have fun baking and sharing your goodies with those whom you're stuck in the house with  quarantined with. If you're quarantining solo, package some goodies up and leave them on your neighbor's doorsteps with a cheery note.

As Ina said in The Atlantic, "the luckiest of us right now have all the comforts of being home."

Friday, April 10, 2020

these strange days ~ and spring things

These days are now like a blur, one running into the next, not even sure what day of the week it is. I went grocery shopping yesterday and it left me feeling disheartened. It was like being in a strange sci-fi movie. People were like zombies. No one was making eye contact or even smiling. There were no sounds of conversation. All I heard was the music over the speakers. I got home, scrubbed my hands, unloaded my groceries, wiped down what items I could with a Clorox wipe, disinfected my countertop, fridge handle and door knobs, and washed my hands again. Then it was off to the vet with Clementine. She needed routine blood tests and a general exam to monitor her kidney disease. Another bizarre sign of the times where the vet tech comes out to the car and takes the pet into the animal clinic while you wait in the car. 

We had beautiful weather last weekend, so we worked in the yard, raking out the garden beds of all the leaves and sticks and dead matter that accumulates over the winter. I cut down all the perennials, too. You can see the lilac bush to the right, starting to sprout green buds.

This is my small herb garden at the back of the house ~ and all the dead stuff I raked out. It's amazing how much accumulates over the winter. Of course, a lot of it was the dead mint stalks, too. The chives and mint and red leaf sorrel come back every year. I think the thyme might be coming back, too ~ I saw some little leaves.

On to the butterfly garden. I raked all this out and cut down the phlox, purple coneflower and black-eyed Susan. See how there's a border in the front of the garden with holes in the ground? That's where we had buried colored wine bottles, neck down to make a pretty border many years ago. Then we had filled in the border area with small landscaping rocks around the wine bottles. Over the years, the rocks have found their way out of the border and wood chips and moss have moved in.

I pulled out all the wine bottles and we soaked them in a tub of soapy water and scrubbed the dirt off. Brian will dig up the border area and we'll start all over with the wine bottles. We don't want to fill in the area around the bottles  with rocks again though. Not sure what we'll do.

 Another spring project we got done last weekend was cleaning off the patio and setting up the patio furniture that had been covered up all winter. We didn't unbox the cushions for the seating yet though because the weather is still too rainy. And Brian will eventually power wash the patio, too. The patio looks so bare with just the furniture sitting there and no plants and flowers, but hopefully soon!

 I love seeing all the perennials coming back to life...

 the tangled mess of clematis...

lilac buds that remind me of miniature grape hyacinth...

hostas that first look like asparagus...

rhubarb (can't wait to make a rhubarb-strawberry crisp!)...

and how cool is this reviving peony?

I'm still taking my daily walks down to the lake, though I've missed a couple of days here and there due to either rain or laziness. A few evenings ago when Brian and I were walking, the sky was still that perfect blue and the almost-full moon was like a beacon.

So peaceful at the lake.

Indoors, not much has changed for spring except the mantel. 

I love the combination of pussy willows and daffodils in this blue and white pitcher.

That's about it around here. Hope you all are safe and well and hanging in there. These are trying times ~ physically and mentally ~ for many.