Wednesday, December 17, 2014

gloomy out, sunny in

 This is what our weather has been like every day for days on end: gray, damp
and gloomy. No snow. Doesn't look like we'll have a white Christmas here in
northern Illinois. I took a walk yesterday morning and snapped this photo by my 
house. It's untouched. I wanted to show you all just how dark it is here during
the day. I'm sending a SOS to those of you in sunny climates.

 So if we don't have sunshine outside, we find it in little ways indoors, right?

 One of my best friends babysits her granddaughter on Saturdays. My friend invited me
 over this past Saturday and I got to play with this little darling and get my baby fix.
 Look at those big, beautiful eyes! She seriously is one of the sweetest babies I have
 ever encountered. She will go to anyone...lets me hold her, feed her a  bottle, diaper her 
(though that was's been about 16 years since I've diapered a baby and my
 friend had to help me!), play with her ~ and she doesn't even "know" me. 
I maybe see her once every six weeks or so. She is always so smiley and content.

Another bit of happiness...I'm in the middle of reading this phenomenal book. I think
it might be my favorite book of 2014. Hard to put down, though I'm trying to savor it
because I don't want it to end!

Best of all, my Bearded Boy came home from school yesterday! I made a lovely dinner:
Crockpot Italian Pork Chops and roasted potatoes and carrots. I'm normally not a fan
of pork chops, but I will eat one made this way. The meat just falls off the bones and is
so flavorful. Brian and Tim went back for seconds and kept claiming how delicious
the chops were. So easy to make, too. After dinner, we hung out downstairs in the family
room, watching Christmas programs on TV and drinking Moscow Mules. 

 And more little bits of cheer...the last of my Christmas decor around my house.
This table is at the end of the hallway. The family photo is from Thanksgiving 2008.
The last one where it was all four of us. (For those of you who don't know, my oldest
son, Philip - in the blue coat in the photo - passed away in September 2009.) The
frame was given to me by a dear friend from Boston. We started out as pen pals
way back when our boys were babies...before we had computers in our homes
and email and social media were the way of life.

I found this little bunny in a Hallmark store years ago. I had to buy it since the scarf said
Joy Phil - though Phil never was particularly amused by it. I have it sitting on top of the
bookcase under his memory shelf. 

A few Santa Claus tchotchkes on a wooden cigar box - all Goodwill finds - 
in Tim's room.

The only Christmas decorations I put in the main bath were the few angels that
I've collected over the years. The wooden angel by the "t" in the bath sign is hand
carved and from a European country, though I can't remember which one. I used to
belong to a woman's group called, "Circle of Gems". One Christmas we had to bring
something from our home that had special meaning to us, but that we were willing
to part with as a gift to another woman in the group. The angel was one of the gifts
 that was brought to the Christmas party and laid out on the table. It immediately caught
my eye and I hoped no one else would choose it. No one did! It was meant to come
home with me.

Thanks for visiting...and don't forget to send me some sunshine!


Friday, December 12, 2014

christmas in the kitchen

 Hello, friends and happy Friday! I thought I'd show you the simple touches of Christmas
that I've put in my kitchen this year...

The red glasses on this shelf were a gift from a friend who moved out of state
this past spring. They belonged to her grandmother. Aren't they beautiful? The Santa
mugs are ones collected throughout the years. 

 This grid ~ an old cooling rack ~ hangs on the wall above my stove. It's a perfect
way to hang measuring spoons and other small cooking utensils, but I changed it
up a bit for Christmas. I've had that little print for years. It was thrifted and is one of
my favorites. It says, "Gather 'round the table...all join hands in love."

 All that's missing from my winter beverage station is hot chocolate. I'll be making my
own mix this weekend. A homemade mix is so much better than the store-bought stuff
which is full of so many chemicals, hydrogenated oils, and corn syrup. And yes, that's a 
bottle of Bailey's in the back, for those who wish to add some to their coffee or hot 
chocolate. I've had that bottle for years...goes to show how much we use it! I'm normally
 not a fan of flavored coffee, but Trader Joe's Winter Blend is the only one I love and
 look forward to every winter. It's a medium dark roast lightly spiced with red and
 green peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon.

 The china cabinet...

mostly filled with cookbooks, but a few Christmas touches, too.

 Everything on the shelves next to the china cabinet are thrifted items I've
found over the years (except for the little air plant). The cups on the metal
shelves on the right are Bailey's cups! I think they're so cool and unique.
They were a Goodwill find from years ago.

The top of my fridge has a plate rack with my Debbie Mumm Snowman Portraits
plates, a cooking snowman, and a Christmas crock dated 1981 from Marshall Fields.
I found that at Goodwill several years ago, too. Man, I miss that store. I actually worked
there when I was a teenager. I loved shopping there, especially with my grandma. Such
a classy store with high quality merchandise and excellent customer service. And who
remembers their Frango mints? I certainly do! My dad loved them, too. I remember one
Christmas where I wrapped up a box of these mints and put them under the tree for my
dad. Our little Pekingese dog smelled them through the wrapping paper and tore into
the box and ate them! Yes, he got very sick but at least he had good taste. 

Thanks for visiting me in my kitchen. What are you up to this weekend...Christmas
decorating, shopping, or baking? Or, are you done with all that? 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

the best laid decorating plans

 I had mentioned in my last post that I had ordered a bench from Overstock and was
going to try to make my little front entrance area more foyer-like and guest friendly.
I had it all planned out...a bench to sit on when coming or going to take off or put on
shoes and boots, plus a good spot to dump purses and packages. I was going to
remove the mirror and hang a cool coat rack. I was thinking of trying to find a long
piece of reclaimed wood and installing various types of vintage hooks and knobs
on it. I'd hang that on the wall above the bench and then put some pretty art prints 
above the rack. 

The bench was delivered yesterday and Brian put it together. I put it in place and...


I actually love the bench itself. The retro look, the color, the texture, the cool legs.
But, there's a couple of problems. First of all, it turns out that trying to turn that little
 wall space into a foyer just doesn't work. That area needs to be blocked off somehow
 and as you can see by the (terrible) design of my small living room, there is no room 
to do so. Blocking off that area wouldn't leave any room for foot traffic. Secondly, the
color of the bench is all wrong for this room. All the blue accents in the living room are
turquoise, not aqua. I thought this lighter blue would blend in, but when you see it with
the turquoise wicker chair (it's hard to see the color of the chair in this photo, I know)
and the turquoise blanket on the couch, etc., you see how the aqua clashes with the

When I think of blocking off a small, open area to make it into another space, I think
of a friend's house where she did just that. You see how she used a bookcase right
inside the entrance to her living room to make a little office area? I love this. But it
doesn't block the flow of foot traffic, so this idea works perfectly in her home.

So, it's back to square one with putting the console table back in place. (No, the sun
didn't miraculously just come out - this is an older photo.) I wish I could use the bench
elsewhere in the would be lovely at the end of our bed, but we don't have
any room. So, the little blue bench is going to be taken apart, boxed back up, and 
sent back.

 Brian's now taking the bench apart and boxing it all up for me. All without 
complaint or saying a word about my continual rearranging. What a smart man.
And one who now deserves dinner, so off I go.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

spiffing up the living room for christmas

 I started my Christmas decorating this week. I don't do any major decorating, but still
have enough decor where it looks like my house exploded until I get everything into
place. Which takes all week because I take my time...and I constantly tweak stuff.

 For today, I'll take you on a little tour of my living room. Instead of decorating "big", I 
prefer to add little touches here and there. I found this vintage sled, ornaments and
Christmas cards at an antique shop several years ago.

 These nesting Santas were found last year at Goodwill.

 A trio of miniature vintage mice decorate my collection of Mary Oliver books.
Mary's my favorite poet, by the way.

I kept the fall runners on the buffet (the burlap bird one was made by Judy of 20 North Ora).
I think they easily transition into Christmas mode with other touches of burlap, as in the little
tree on the shelf, and with touches of gold and red. On the other side of the buffet is our
tabletop Christmas tree, but I'm still decorating it, so I didn't take any photos. I use this
tree to display my boy's childhood ornaments. We don't put up a big tree anymore.

If you've been a follower of my blog for awhile, you know that I don't have a proper
foyer in my home. When you walk in the front door, you are smack dab in the living
room. This is the wall to the left when you walk through the door. I kept the console
table very simple on I'm re-doing this area! I'm trying to make it more
foyer-like and guest friendly. I ordered a really cool light blue leather mid-century
bench from Overstock. It will go in place of this console table - which will be going
downstairs behind the sofa. The bench will be much lower than the console table,
so the wall gap between the bench and the mirror will look awkward. For now, I'll
fill in the area with some pillows on the bench, against the wall. I do have a long term
plan/redecorating idea. ;-)

Another last year Goodwill find, tucked among the floor plants by the fireplace.

 How are you coming along on your holiday decorating?

Friday, November 28, 2014

celebrations and shopping

This was the first year that I didn't take many photos of our Thanksgiving day celebration.
I managed to get a photo of the food spread after all the dishes were dug into - not very
appealing! But wow, did we ever have a spread at my sister's house: tortilla roll-ups,
 deviled eggs, and chips and salsa for appetizers; then turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed
 potatoes, sweet potatoes with  a maple syrup glaze, fruit salad, corn casserole, 
roasted Brussels sprouts with mustard vinaigrette, homemade rolls and cranberry sauce
 for dinner; and homemade pumpkin pie, brownies, and cookies for dessert. *groan*

I managed to sneak a photo of my niece getting her hair braided by her friend.
Four teenage girls sitting at the "kid's table" in the living room with their talking and 
giggling was so cute to hear by us adults in the dining room. When I tried several times
to take photos of the girls, they'd always turn their heads or put their hands up in front
of their face. And somehow I didn't even get a photo of my husband or son (who was
able to come home from school for a short 24-hour visit).

I did some online Black Friday shopping today (Christmas presents) and I also took down
 all of my fall decorations in prep for putting up Christmas decor. I have to drag boxes
upstairs from the basement and I'm not in any hurry, so all I managed to get done with
any Christmas decor today was to put a pillow on my couch. Ta-da! Oh - and that'd be
the latest fiction book I'm reading on the couch- Jodi Picoult's latest book, "Leaving Time".
 So far, I'm really enjoying it.

When Brian got home from work today, we had to run to Home Depot for a few
household items and I suggested we go to Old Navy and Ulta (right next door to each
other) to see their Black Friday deals - IF the stores weren't packed. We were surprised
to find that all these stores weren't any more busy than any other Friday night. Old Navy
had a huge sale where everything in the store was 50% off. All we were looking for was
pajama pants and flannel shirts for Tim. We were disappointed to find that the quality
of both of these items was terrible - the material was so thin and cheap. With the kind
of weather we have here in Illinois during the winter, warm pajama pants and flannel
shirts are a necessity. I'd rather pay a bit more for quality.

Tomorrow we'll be spending time with some friends and going to an outdoor
Christmas event - "Merry and Bright - a Downtown Holiday". Hope your weekend
plans include time for a little fun, too.

Monday, November 24, 2014

therapy, a barn sale, and moving along

I'll be honest with you, I'd been hesitating about doing a post these past couple of
weeks. My life has pretty much been consumed with physical therapy appointments every
weekday. I had mentioned in earlier posts that I was having another medical problem, but
I didn't want to get into too many details on my blog. Long story short, I have primary
lymphedema in my left arm and "they" (doctors, therapists) have no idea why. In the meantime,
I am going through lymph drainage therapy. It's not anything painful, just time consuming. And
the first five days my arm was bandaged in five layers from hand to armpit. Now I'm wearing
a compression sleeve during the day and what I call the "oven mitt" at night. Yes, it's as
uncomfortable and hot as it looks. I'm just thankful I'm having to wear these things while our
weather is cold and not in the middle of summer. I think Monkey is just as perplexed about this
contraption as I am.

So, I felt I had nothing to write about. All over Blogland, people were decorating and
crafting and sewing and cooking and remodeling - and I was doing nothing except going
to therapy and keeping the household stuff going. Reminds me of the old 70's skit from
Cheech and Chong - Sister Mary Elephant. Any of you remember that? Though my
version would be, "The first day of the week, I woke up. Then I went downtown
 to go to physical therapy. Then I went and hung out at home.The second day of the week,
 I woke up. Then I went downtown to go to physical therapy. Then I went and hung out at
home. The third day of the week...

So, life picked up a little bit this weekend and one of the fun things I got to do
was to go to a huge barn sale with a friend of mine at a place called Ginger Blossom
in the far reaches of northwest Illinois. Ginger (yes, Ginger Blossom is her real name)
travels the world and brings back tons of things to sell from her farm: furniture, rugs,
clothing, scarves, dishes, household decor, ethnic and tribal collectibles, drums,
masks, ethnic jewelry, etc.  

It was a cold, rainy, dreary day and we got wet and muddy, but we sure had lots
of fun. The pathway to the barn was lined with bare trees covered in lights.

Some of the interesting things inside the barn included these Buddhas.

I loved all the glassware from Mexico. Someday, I'd like to go back and perhaps get
a set of drinking glasses or wine glasses. They were reasonably priced, at $5 each. 

As you can see, the barn is packed from the floor to the rafters with all kinds
of goods. I really liked those baskets you see in the background, too.

The grounds had paths all around that led from one little cottage to the next,
with each cottage stuffed with goodies. My only purchase was a pretty red scarf
from India (only $5!) and then a jar of raw honey and a couple of blocks of homemade
artisan cheese from a local vendor. I told my friend that when I go to places like this,
I get shopping ADD. I get too overwhelmed by all the pretty things and stuff I like
 and then can't make a choice. 

Moving on to today, I know that this week will be a busy one for most of us in the US with
Thanksgiving being this Thursday. I did my grocery shopping this morning, then came home
to start a big pot of split pea soup. I also made cranberry-orange muffins, a pan of my
homemade granola, and a pan of roasted spiced mixed nuts.

 Snow moved in this afternoon and I spied Mr. Squirrel out my living room window enjoying
 a little snack ~ one of the last mini pumpkins I left outside for the squirrel's enjoyment. 

  Here's to a good week!