Tuesday, August 18, 2020

august: ending, birthday, storms, day trip

Grab a drink of your choice and settle down for a long-ish read. This is what happens when I don't talk to you all for awhile!

How can we be nearing the end of August already? It makes me sad. I don't want summer to be over so soon. The warm months here in Illinois are fleeting. Today even feels a bit fall-like with dappled sunlight and a cool breeze. I don't hear the children who live in the homes behind us, playing in their backyards. They must be back at school already; or inside their homes doing remote learning. I'm not sure what our school district chose to do this year. 

Even my gardens are starting to look dejected. The perennials in my butterfly garden are drying up and past their prime.

The tomato plants are done for the season, too. This is the time of year when plants look tired.

One plant that seems unbeatable is this passion flower vine. I bought it as a medium-sized potted plant, put it in the ground in front of our house and it took off with a vengeance. As you can see, it's climbing the downspout. It starts getting near our gutters, and it's getting a good pruning. I was warned by a friend who's a Master Gardener, that this plant overtakes everything. I don't mind because we couldn't get anything else to grow in this area and like I said, I can always cut it back. It does remind us of The Little Shop of Horrors with the "Feed Me" plant though.

I celebrated another trip around the sun last week. I had a lovely, quiet day with cards, phone calls, texts, private messages on Facebook, some gifts from family and friends, and lunch out with Brian. We tried a new restaurant just over the border in Wisconsin (masks worn to and from the tables; tables all far apart with the closest diners being more than 10 feet away from us). We had heard that storms were coming and on the way home, we turned on the radio to find out that the storms were going to be bad. Winds up to 100 mph, trees down, hail. I had Brian pull over to the side of the road so I could get out of the car and take this photo. I love the stormy sky, this home's landscaping, and the surrounding farm fields. 

We got home just in time to put our potted plants and chairs that were on the porch, into the garage. This is what it looked like at 3:00 in the afternoon! It was so dark, the photo cell lights on our house went on. Sure enough, I then got a tornado warning alert on my phone and we headed to the basement. Our power flickered on and off a few times and after the storm was over, we went outside to assess the damage. It wasn't too bad ~ small tree limbs and leaves everywhere. Parts of Chicago and surrounding suburbs got hit hard with huge trees uprooted and power out for days!

After a long week with Brian having a stress test and a colonoscopy (both passed with flying colors, thank God...and I just have to brag, that my hubby at 60 years old, can still complete the entire treadmill stress test! His doctor said he and only one other patient of his are able to do so. I can vouch for how amazing and hard it would be to complete a stress test...I had one last year and definitely could not finish it!), he announced he wanted to "get out of here" and spend time in the city (Chicago). 

No worries, we were safe. We only went to a few of our favorite independent shops in a select neighborhood and we had lunch on the patio of a cute, little diner.

Chicagoans are fantastic with social distancing and wearing masks. In all the neighborhoods we walked through and in the small shops we went into, everyone was practicing both these necessary protocols. We didn't encounter one single person not wearing a mask, even outdoors. Because walking in these crowded neighborhoods, you are always passing by another person. So unlike our own little neighborhood, far away from the city. We don't even have sidewalks, so we walk on the side of the road. We rarely even encounter another person on our walks and if we do, they're on the other side of the road, easily 10 feet away.

 The architecture on some of the homes and buildings in this area of Chicago we were in (Lakeview) was amazing...

 And so were the gardens and plants around the houses in the Roscoe Village neighborhood...

Oops, not a plant! But one of the cutest little doggos I've ever seen. 💓 This is a mini Australian Shepherd. So cool that it has one blue eye and one brown.

We stopped in a vintage shop where we were the only customers besides one other person. We didn't buy anything, but it was fun to look around. Both of us love mid-century modern furniture even though we only have a couple of pieces in our home. I fell in love with these nightstands, though they were too short for our bedroom and wouldn't go with our headboard or just our room in general. And no, I don't have a hankering to completely change our bedroom right now either!

Love the curved, raised piece on top of the nightstand.

A beautiful cabinet that caught our eye...but nowhere to put it in our small house. Check out the tile in this store, too! *swoon*

Another small, independent shop we went into was Praha. We discovered this shop last year and vowed to return. We were the only customers in this shop at the time, so we were able to spend time looking around...

and had a lovely, long conversation with the shop owner, Todd. I came home with two vintage planters.

The only two other shops we went into were bookstores; both independent, one with new books, the other with used. In both shops, again, we were the only customers. Sign of the times we're currently in, for sure. At the store that sold new books, I got the Wendell Berry poetry book and Brian got The Warmth of Other Suns. We like to support independent book shops when we go to towns that have such stores. We could've paid a lot less on Amazon, but we want these independent bookstores to stay in business. We know that our small purchases are a drop in the bucket, but we can only hope that every small purchase counts towards filling that bucket to stay afloat.

I saved the best for last. The used bookstore. This is Bookmans Corner. Another Chicago store we discovered last year, and happily so. I think it's a good thing we don't live closer, because I'd be in here far too often, dragging home so many books that my house would end up looking like this!

John, the owner is now 85 years old. He told me the place was for sale ~ including all the books ~ if I was interested. 😉 As you can see, the charm of this place is the claustrophobic aisles with homemade bookshelves and books piled precariously everywhere. 

John has books on every subject you can think of. An entire aisle is dedicated to different countries all over the world. I could happily spend hours in this store, digging through piles of books until I found ones I didn't even know I needed wanted. John doesn't even have a cash register in his store. He tallies up the purchases (which are sooo reasonably priced!) in his head or writes them down on a piece of paper. We paid in cash and he pulled out his wallet to give us change.

These are the four books I came home with. Brian found a few, too (not pictured). Oliver Sacks was a British physician and professor of neurology and psychiatry, best known for writing books about case histories of his patients and his own neurological conditions. I'd read a couple of his other books, so was glad to find this one. 

at home is a book of black and white photographs of everyday home still life vignettes. From Amazon:

"In striking black-and-white still-life portraits, Frederking captures the small and large elements that define the spirit of his home, as well as revealing why the home is at the heart of the American dream. Home is a place where objects become enlivened and symbolic—a newspaper lying askew on the kitchen table, a fluffy bedspread spilling through the iron lattice of a bedframe, a staircase spiraling down into mysterious shadows—and thus affirm our existence. Everything we buy or touch, renovate or borrow becomes a mark of our selves, and these marks are nowhere more concentrated than in the home. Frederking’s powerful visual sequence examines the simple backdrop that anchors our complicated lives—and ourselves. "

Thank you for visiting and for your sweet comments. Stay healthy, well and safe!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

august simple pleasures

Oh, how I love summer. It's just not long enough here in Illinois. Sun-filled days that light up my home; making tomato galette from farm fresh tomatoes (though the small ones are San Marzanos that we're growing); being grateful for kind neighbors who bring me peaches from their peach trees; dining alfresco at socially distanced restaurant tables; birds cooing at us from high wires while we take our evening walks around the neighborhood; spying a hot air balloon in the sky while riding in the car, wondering how carefree the people in the balloon must feel; visiting the hens, roosters and turkeys at a local farm; ending a beautiful summer day by walking down to the lake and watching the sun set.

I have to throw in here that I hate the new Blogger format! It's different every time I write a post and unfortunately, more frustrating each time, too. Why did they have to change what was working just fine and why is it not user friendly?!

Saturday, August 1, 2020


Hard to believe it's August already. Brian and I were talking the other day and saying it seems like summer was just getting going. We both love the summer season and it's much too short here in Illinois. 

The end of July is popular for birthdays in our family. Our oldest son, Philip was born on July 21st. One of the happiest days of my life. He made me a mother, which is something I had dreamed about since I was 12 years old. Philip would've been 32 years old this year. His life ended tragically in 2009 when he was only 21 years old, due to the diseases of mental illness and subsequently, addiction. After 11 years, I thought his birthday wouldn't be so hard, but it was. Brian and I both were glad to see that day come to a close.

And then Brian himself turned the big six-oh recently! He sure doesn't look 60, does he? I got a huge chuckle from a comment on my Instagram that said the first time she saw a picture of Brian, she thought "You go girl with that young guy!" 🤣 We spent the day doing what Brian loves best ~ going back to his home town and relaxing by the lake (Lake Michigan..."The Michigan Ocean" as we affectionately call it) and going out to eat at a hip, new Mexican place that had a huge selection of different tacos. Of course, I made my "young birthday guy" his favorite birthday cake: a banana cake with cream cheese frosting. We purposely avoid processed sugar as much as possible, so I was excited to find a banana cake recipe that used honey. The good thing about this recipe is that you can also make it vegan by using maple syrup and flax eggs, and you can even make it gluten-free by using GF flour. You can find the recipe from Cookie + Kate here. I'm making the cake again today because I have some overly ripe bananas I need to use. I'll skip the frosting this time. We'll just eat it as a snack cake.

More birthday celebrations at the end of the month with my mom turning 80! That's my cute little red-headed mom in the middle with me (with the glasses) and my aunt; my mom's sister. Just like I said about my husband, I certainly don't think my mom looks 80! I hope that when I'm that age, I look and feel as good as she does. She takes very good care of herself, eating a very healthy diet and exercising every day. We celebrated by taking Mom out to lunch at a wonderful seafood restaurant in the Chicago suburbs. The food was amazing (Brian's caprese salad with shrimp; my wild-caught grouper; side dish of wild rice pilaf and roasted potatoes and vegges) and huge portions that gave us plenty of leftovers to take home.

For my mom's birthday gift this year, I posted on Facebook asking any who knew my mom, to please send me small notes of why they love or admire her. I collected the notes and put them in a big glass jar. My aunt made that pretty tag for the jar. I went to Mom's house on her actual birthday and presented her with the jar. She lifted the lid and pulled out one of the notes. She unfolded it and read it and burst into tears. She said, "Are all these messages for me?" I told her yes and she just sat there, softly crying for awhile. We spent hours going through each message; lots of tears shed but plenty of laughter, too. I think this was one of Mom's favorite birthday gifts ever.

 As much fun and filled with love all these "big" birthday celebrations were this year, originally we were going to have a big family party at our house. I pictured our small house bustling with all our loved ones, sitting around the kitchen, living room and patio, talk and laughter carrying through the air, plenty of good food and drinks going around. But with the coronavirus still rampant, we had to cancel the party. It broke my heart to have to do so.

Hope you're all having a good weekend. It's cloudy and cool here today ~ enough where I could turn off the AC and open windows and doors. 

Be well and safe! 💗