Saturday, October 31, 2020

weird halloween ~ let's bake!

I woke to a sea of green leaves in our side yard and patio this morning. 

A hard frost overnight stripped the trees almost completely bare.

Last year on Halloween, we had a freak snowstorm that dumped several inches of snow on us. Trick-or-treating was cancelled. This year, it's 57 degrees with a brilliant, blue sky.

And a blue moon. And a pandemic.

Spooky for real.

I don't do much baking these days, but my hubby likes an occasional sweet treat. And we both love pumpkin. This pumpkin bread recipe is different in that it's made with whole wheat flour and uses olive oil instead of butter. It's also heavy on the spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves...which make the house smell warm and cozy and fall-like.

The recipe is from the book, "Eat This Poem" ~ which is fabulous. It's filled with poems and short stories with each recipe, which emphasize the love and importance of nourishing ourselves and our family and friends. 

1-3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (I used coconut sugar)
1 T pumpkin spice mix (recipe follows)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup pumpkin puree (from a can is fine, preferably organic)
2 large eggs
2 T pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare a loaf pan by buttering or lining with parchment paper. Stir the flour, brown and turbinado sugars, pumpkin spice mix, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Pour the olive oil and water into another bowl, then whisk in the pumpkin puree and eggs. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently incorporate with a wooden spoon, stirring just until no traces of flour remain. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan; sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. Bake for 50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn the loaf onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

Pumpkin Spice Mix
(Use the extra to add to oatmeal or pancake batter!)

2 T ground cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice

I hope that you do give this bread a try ~ it goes perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.

Happy Halloween ~ be safe and well.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

pleasant diversions

Our world is pretty darn stressful right now with the pandemic (or dampanic, as Susan Branch calls it), our (USA) current administration and out-of-control wildfires. Add personal stressors on top of it, and it's enough to make anyone run for the hills. Don't forget your mask. And better hope the hill isn't on fire.

Here in far northeast Illinois, we've hit another surge of COVID cases and deaths. Most restaurants are now closed again for indoor dining. I'd been taking Clementine inside the vet's office for her twice weekly subcutaneous fluids and starting today, just like back in the late spring, we have to stay in the car and the vet tech comes out to get her.

While we're all (mostly) stuck inside, sometimes it feels good to just snuggle up on the couch or in the bed and immerse yourself in a good book, lose yourself in some beautiful music, or watch an engaging movie or TV show. I thought it'd be fun to share what we're reading, what music we're listening to, and what movies or TV shows we're watching. Sometimes it's too easy to stick with the same types of books or music, so maybe we'll discover something new to read, listen to or watch. 

As an introvert and avid reader, I've always been surrounded by books and have my nose stuck in one. I just tried reading four fiction books and couldn't get into any of them. So I'm back to reading my usual non-fiction. I'm currently reading David Kessler's newest book, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. If you're not familiar with Kessler, he's written many books on death and grieving, including two co-written with psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. We're all probably familiar with the five stage of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Even though Kessler was a grief "expert", when his 21-year old son died of an accidental overdose, his life, of course, was upended and writing this book was a way to work through all the stages of grief - including this new stage he came up with - and to honor his son. As most of you know, my oldest son, Philip passed away 11 years ago ~ also at age 21 and from an accidental drug overdose. This book is insightful for anyone who has lost a loved one and is on the healing end of their grief journey.
Simple Abundance is a book I read year-round, as it's divided into months. And every day of the month has an short essay. Even if you miss a few days ~ or weeks, it's easy to pick up this book and just start where you left off. This book first came out in 1995 but the new edition (which I have below) came out in November 2019. This book is all about women's spirituality and following your own true path.

I didn't start truly listening to music until I was a pre-teen. Back then in the early 70's, I rode my bike around the neighborhood with my transistor radio in the basket on the front of my bike. And on Saturdays when I got my allowance, I couldn't wait to walk to K-Mart and pick out the newest "45". One record I remember playing over and over ~ even taking it to my friend's house and playing it on her record player, too ~ was Radar Love by Golden Earring. Now I just have a few CDs that I still haven't parted with (I do listen to them in my car) and my Spotify playlist.

 I played the piano and flute growing up, but I didn't choose to play the piano. It was something my mother said I was going to do. Back in those days, we just said OK and did it. Did I enjoy it? Only the casual playing part. I hated the lessons and the 30-minute per day practicing. I did choose to play the flute when I was in junior high ~ and that continued through high school.

 My favorite genre of music is classic rock ~ that's probably from being a teen in the 70's ~ but I also like alternative rock, folk music, bluegrass, jazz, disco, Motown, Indie, instrumental (piano or guitar), some classical, and vocal swing. I love discovering new artists, so share away! I hope you enjoy a couple of my picks.

Billie Eilish is only 18 years old but wow, what a beautiful, sultry voice!

It's no surprise that Kurt Vile paired up with John Prine on this song: Kurt was influenced by Prine in his early music career. This song was recorded just four months before Prine's death in April 2020.

As for TV and movies, I'm not much into either. I've just now turned the boob tube back on after having it off the entire summer, except for a cooking show here and there. I'm more likely to have my nose stuck in a book or be on my laptop writing emails or researching something. My blogging friend, Dewena recently recommended that I watch Angela, aka "The Parisienne Farmgirl" and Shaye at "The Elliott Homestead" on YouTube. I follow both of them on Instagram but haven't watched their videos yet. 

So I'm probably late to the game, but we're just now watching Schitt's Creek. We watched the first two episodes when it first came out, but couldn't get into it. Last month we decided to try one more time, this time saying we'd give it four episodes. It worked. We are hooked. It's light-hearted and hilarious ~ something we need these days.

I read about this movie on the Greater Good website and it piqued my interest, though I haven't watched it yet. On my to-watch list!

"Driveways studies how learning to cope with the loss of relationships can help create new, meaningful ones. Because the fulfillment of this essential psychological need is so strong, these ties can be forged between people who are seemingly very different from each other. Everyone must carry something heavy, from time and time—and Driveways highlights how leaning on each other can lighten our burdens." (Maryam Abdullah, Greater Good)

My son is very much into movies, especially ones with deep meaning that leave you thinking and guessing. He watched this one recently and recommended it, so it's another that's on my to-watch list.

"When I got to the end of Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things, I had to ask myself: What the heck was that about? After I watched it a second time, I came to understand a few things about this beautiful, unsettling, complex, melancholy film.

To begin, I don’t believe it’s a spoiler to reveal that the movie is a character study, and that it takes place entirely inside that one achingly lonely mind. But what’s the story about? In my view, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is really about goodness, but what makes this story a tragedy is that the goodness goes unseen and unappreciated by others.

At one point, his girlfriend (Jessie Buckley) praises Jake (Jesse Plemons) for taking care of his dying mother. “I’m glad to hear you say that,” he says. “That makes me feel better. Sometimes, it feels like no one sees the good things you do. You’re just alone.” She whispers to him, “I see it.”

However, this wonderful girlfriend doesn’t exist outside of his head, and the tragedy is that Jake needed to invent someone to see his very real goodness. She is variously named Lucy, Louisa, Lucia, and Ames; she’s sometimes a physicist, sometimes a painter; once a poet, again a film critic. When Jake’s elderly parents need their pain recognized, she becomes a gerontologist.

Throughout all these metamorphoses, she stays smart, grounded, and funny. She’s not a doormat or a manic pixie dream girl, as we might expect from decades of Hollywood movies. She’s something new to cinema: the imaginary woman who is wiser and realer than the shadow of a man who imagines her. She becomes what Jake could have been, if he’d been luckier. The movie left me wondering what goodness I might be missing, in the people I encounter. I could be missing a lot of bad, too; I’m Thinking of Ending Things doesn’t shy away from how much social invisibility hurts Jake. He’s not a bad man, but he is a damaged one.

By the end, we can see him whole, good and bad. It’s confusing, that karmic mixture, because we like to see clear-cut heroes and villains in our stories. When we don’t, it’s ourselves we begin to see, good and bad." (Jeremy Adam Smith, Greater Good)

What are you reading, listening to and watching? Or what do you recommend? Please share in the comments!

May you be well, peaceful, healthy and safe.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

new sofa and clementine

Hello from moody, windy Illinois. Today's view of the maple tree across the street...

There are so many fallen leaves right now. Brian's already cleaned out our gutters twice. He'll have to do it two or three more times before the trees are stripped bare. Today looks like it'll be the last warm day for a loong time. The extended forecast shows temps dropping into the low 50's and even one day where it will only be a high of 48F. And lots of rain. Cue the sobbing. And the start of Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

After waiting six weeks for our Crate and Barrel Willow sofa to be made and delivered to's finally here! We love it. It is comfortable and cozy, perfect for lounging, yet firm enough to have good support. We are super impressed with the quality of the sofa itself and the slipcover, which is washable.

I decided to put the new sofa on an angle instead of up against the wall under the opening where the old sofa was. More photos coming up, but first let me tell you that getting this new sofa and putting it in a new spot got the snowball effect rolling. The black ladder bookshelf and floor lamp do not look good behind the sofa. My cousin, who is a designer, told me I need a higher bookshelf, that the proportions are off. I agree. I might try a tall corner bookshelf. We also need an arc floor lamp so it comes over the couch for reading. And, of course, we need artwork for the walls.

This "cheap" IKEA chair you see to the side will also eventually be replaced with something a little nicer. And my grandma's coffee table, which I love but is too big and angular for the room, will be going into the downstairs family room. I'll be looking for a smaller round or oval coffee table, probably with a glass top to make the room look more open and airy. No hurry on any of these things though. I am taking my time looking on Facebook Marketplace plus online sales.

This is the view across from the sofa. The sofa now faces the fireplace, which is on a diagonal. And we moved the TV from Brian's office into the living room. Neither of us ever watched TV in Brian's office so it was useless in there. And yet another thing I'm looking for: a console TV stand, preferably one with shelves or glass-front cabinets so I can display some books and my vintage pottery.

Thank you for all the kind and helpful comments in my last post about Clementine and her receiving subcutaneous fluids. She received her first treatment this past Monday. The two young, sweet, caring vet techs let me in the room with her so I was able to pet her and talk to her while she was receiving her treatment. She did flinch and let out a little meow when the needle first went in, but then she immediately settled down and was fine the entire time. Watching the tech do the procedure convinced me I cannot do this on my own. 

The techs told me that the vet wants Clementine to have these treatments twice/week for at least three weeks. We then might be able to go down to once/week. How they will determine that, I have no idea. I'm going to ask again tomorrow when I take her in again. 

They also told me (and I was aware from reading online ahead of time) that the fluid doesn't get absorbed all at once, that it can take hours for the body to do so. The fluid accumulates under the skin and forms a "bubble" and can travel down to the torso. You can see the fluid bubble at the bottom of her tummy, near her leg. You can also see where she chews her skin...see how her fur is ragged on the left leg and there's a pink spot? She's been excessively barbering for a couple of years now. Long story short, she sees a vet dermatologist for this and they have done tests and tried four different meds and changing her diet and nothing works. Her regular vet and I agree: it's most likely anxiety. The thing is, she can't be on any anti-anxiety medication because it would affect her kidneys. 

One small blessing that came our way Monday at the vet...when I was checking out, the amount I was charged was 40% less than what I was originally quoted over email. So the cost of bringing Clementine in for these fluids is not as terrible as we had feared.

Have a wonderful week and stay safe.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

buncha random

Some new things for the house...

A large wine rack from Amazon that takes up less space than the two small wine racks I had before.

The two empty spaces on bottom were filled today with a Malbec and red blend I found at Trader Joe's. I love crisp, white wines and roses (ugh, that's not roses as in the's "rohzays"...I don't know how to get the foreign accent marks in Blogger!) in the warmer months and then heavier reds in the cold months.

Last Friday, I took a drive out to Woodstock, IL ~ the town famous for the filming of the movie, Groundhog Day. It was a beautiful day, I wanted a little escape all by myself, and the town square is a beautiful place to take a walk and stop in some independent shops. Besides, a few of the shops were participating in a Vintage Shop Hop.

Recognize this gazebo in the town square from the movie?

I came home with a couple of small things ~ this tin bird bath...

and a vintage bowl in one of my favorite colors.

I follow a young woman on Instagram that I used to know from when she was a teenager and we went to the same church. She's now married with a baby and living in the Portland, Oregon area. I've been enthralled by her macrame work ~ she's so talented! ~ and she's now selling it through her Instagram account. I finally decided on this piece for my guest room wall. So pretty, right? She uses driftwood that she finds on the beach.

If you're old enough to remember, macrame was all the rage in the 70's. I took a class with my mom and made plant hangers and even a purse with a Lucite handle. 

I love supporting independent artists, too. If you're interested, her Instagram account is @heatherswebbs. 

Some freebies for the house...

An elderly woman down the street recently passed away. At least, that's what I'm assuming because I haven't seen her and her house is up for sale. A few days ago, Brian and I were taking a walk and there was a Dumpster in front of the woman's house. It was filled to the brim with relics of her life: old-fashioned lamps and torn lampshades, rusty toolboxes, a huge stereo console, a couch that looked like it was from the 1960's with that stiff, brushed polyester finish, lots of junky odds and ends, and ooh, some old ladders.

I also found a huge, vintage pottery crock. The only marking on the bottom is "USA". It has a couple of small chips on the back, but I don't mind. (I found a vintage bean pot too, but it's currently in the dishwasher so it hasn't been photographed yet.)

I guess I officially Dumpster dived! Though I didn't go INTO the Dumpster. Ick. These items were on top. Made me kind of sad though to think this lady lived her life in this house all these years and had all this furniture and things that made her house a home and perhaps made her happy, just like we all do. And then she's gone and all her stuff is relegated to a Dumpster and hauled away. She's gone, her stuff is gone. Like nothing ever mattered. I silently promised the elderly lady that I would take care of her few things and thanked her for them.

My sweet Clementine...

She was diagnosed with kidney disease a few years ago. It's unfortunately very common in cats, especially as they get older. She was young to be diagnosed - only eight or nine years old at the time. She's been doing pretty well since the diagnosis and has been on medicine for high blood pressure which helps the kidneys and a prescription diet. But her latest blood tests show that certain levels are climbing. It's time for subcutaneous fluids. The vet said she needed them one - three times a week to start out. I panicked because of the time and money involved. Long story short, I talked to the vet and we agreed she could start with one treatment per week. From what I've read about and heard from other cat owners, you can get the supplies from the vet and do the IV fluids yourself at home. That way you don't have to keep taking the cat to the vet plus, of course, it's much cheaper to do it yourself at home.

That's all fine and dandy except that IV needles ~ and the thought of sticking them into the cat's skin ~ totally freaks me out. I honestly don't know if I could handle that. Last night as I was lying in bed, I was picturing the whole set up at home and trying to insert the needle into Clementine's skin between her shoulder blades. And it actually made me feel like I was going to vomit. My anxiety was skyrocketing and I couldn't fall asleep. Brian said he couldn't do this either. So I don't know what we're going to do. We certainly can't afford anymore than one treatment per week through the vet. But as she progresses with her kidney disease, she's going to need more treatments. Has anyone out there been through this with their cat?

Gorgeous weather...

We've been blessed with a warm-up in temperatures, plenty of sunshine and brilliant blue skies. As I do every year, I photograph the maple tree across the street almost every day. It's amazing how quickly it changes. This photo was taken today in the late afternoon. 

"How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days."
(John Burroughs)

Brian had the day off work yesterday and we went for an afternoon hike in the State Park. We are so lucky to have this gem close to our house.

If you look closely, you can see a sandhill crane taking off out of the water.

Getting ready for the new couch...

Last month, I told you that we finally bought a new couch from Crate and Barrel after looking for one for over a year. It had to be built - they didn't have the couch we wanted in stock - and it will finally be here on Friday. I'm so excited! The other day when our furnace tune-up guy was here (the son of a friend), he helped Brian move our old couch out to the curb. Luckily, it was snatched up within a few hours.

Our old couch was up against the wall where you see the now-blank space. I packed up the books and pottery from the black shelves, took the two big pictures off the walls and we moved the black shelves and the white table into the basement. Our plan for the new couch is to put it on an angle with the back facing the corner. If that arrangement doesn't work out, we will put the couch in the same place the old one was. 

I love this coffee table. It was my grandma's and it's made by Lane. It's a high-quality, solid (heavy!) piece of furniture. It's too big for our small living room though. Eventually, I want to move this coffee table downstairs into the family room and find a smaller coffee table for the living room. There's other plans I have for the living room too, but one step at a time.

Enjoy the rest of your week. Stay safe and healthy and wear your mask!


Thursday, October 1, 2020

thank you ~ and meet petunia

Thank you for your kind words on my last post regarding Phil and his death anniversary. I truly appreciate the support. It was 11 years on September 25th. Seems impossible he's been gone that long. Forever 21. This year was a bit easier than last year...maybe because ten years is one of those milestone dates. Or maybe because I put my needs out there to a certain group of friends and they responded with nothing but love and encouraging messages. It helped carry me through the extra hard day.

Phil, Brian, Tim ~ 1997

This past weekend, Brian and I visited Ginger Blossom ~ a farm in Richmond, Illinois where they sell ethnic and traditional crafts, rugs, furniture, sweaters, textiles and antiques from all over the world.

The property is beautiful and serene, with little buildings dotted here and there filled with all kinds of ethnic goods.

The main barn is filled to the rafters with all kinds of cool stuff...

Wait. They have CATS? πŸ’“

The blue one kept calling my name. We walked around for awhile, thinking and talking about it, and came back to it twice. And finally decided we needed to bring it home with us.

Here she is in front of the fireplace.

I named her Petunia. She's well-behaved and doesn't cost a fortune in vet bills.

Until next time ~ stay safe and well.