Boxes and Baskets and Pots of Flowers!

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Urn on the garage wing wall.
I was reminded this weekend of the reason that I always plant my annuals during the first week of May regardless of what the USDA says: It gets freaking HOT in Illinois at the end of May!  This weekend, (after inquiries by neighbors as to my health and a kind offer from my friend Sadie, (the florist) to plant my urn at the behest of my family), I finally made time to do a little planting.

Of course, this weekend the daytime temperatures also reached 98 degrees and there wasn't a hint of a breeze! I actually felt sorry for the plants! Our window boxes are on the second story of the house and they face West and North. The plants that live (or at least try to) in these boxes take the words "full sun" to a whole new's something more along the lines of full sun living in a copper planter with the heat from the roof baking your roots off." Note to self: on the next house, window boxes made of wood, facing East.
West Large Window Box - View from the Driveway
North Large Window Box - View from the driveway.
West window box - View from my son's room.
North Window Box - View from the Master bath.
White Begonias (at least some day they will be) as borders for the front yard gardens.

Front Yard Plant List (Coral, White and Gray):
Hydrangea Endless Summer "Blushing Bride"
Euphorbia "Diamond Frost"
Begonia "Borias"
Cut Leaf Sweet Potato Vine
Dichondra "Silver Falls"
Bedding plants: White begonias

I also planted a few containers around the pergola. I'm still putting the finishing touches on a couple of projects before the "big reveal" but I thought that I'd share a few photos.
Patio Container

Patio basket
Thank you, Mom and Dad! I LOVE it!

Rear Yard Plants: Pink, Gray and White (with a little Blue from my parents)
Hydrangea Endless Summer - Blue
Euphorbia "Diamond Frost"
Soft Pink Geranium
Silver Pink Petunia
Pink Angel face (no idea what the real name is)
White Lobelia
Dichondra "Silver Falls"
 Mercifully, it's cooler here today and the forecast is for unseasonably cool weather for the next several days. I got to turn the air conditioning off and open the windows.  This is a good sign that maybe the plants will survive and that my electric bill won't be so huge that I'll be forced to get a second  third job to pay it!



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Funky Junk

Pottery Barn Inspired Patio Lantern Project

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Source: Pottery Barn
I've recently spent some time  going back to my boards on Pinterest and I was SHOCKED that I have amassed nearly 1,900 pins on 48 boards over the last year! Holy smacks! How did that happen!?

French Country Omelette Recipe

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Memorial Day Breakfast
Adapted from Ina Garten. Quick and easy to make.


  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 5 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) unpeeled Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a 10-inch, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for 3 to 5 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is browned but not crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Place the potatoes in the pan and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Cook the potatoes over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until very tender and browned, stirring occasionally to brown evenly. Remove with a slotted spoon to the same plate as the bacon.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together: the eggs, milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. After the potatoes are removed, pour the fat out of the pan and discard. Add the butter, lower the heat to low, and pour the eggs into the hot pan. Sprinkle the bacon, potatoes, and chives evenly over the top and place the pan in the oven for about 8 minutes, just until the eggs are set. Serve hot with fresh fruit and muffins or hearty toast.

Yep, I'm a foodie. I admit it. I love cooking for family and friends.


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 With my sincere and profound thanks to all of the brave men and women of the Armed Forces and their families -  especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the preservation of the freedom that we enjoy today.  

I am blessed and humbled to count many of you among my family and friends.  We are all blessed by your service to freedom and to our country and I'm asking each of you to join me in remembering - not only today, but every day.   



The Best Birthday Gift of All

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Nope. It's not these cool clocks, they've been hanging around forever.

This year, my family and friends are giving me unique gifts, priceless gifts, no two alike. They are giving me the gift of spending time with me, doing things that I love. My oldest and I stayed up until two o'clock this morning baking cheesecake. My youngest and I are headed to the nursery as soon as I finish this post.

I'm blessed to have people in my life who care enough to give me the greatest gift that anyone can give...the gift of their time. 

So, over the next couple of weeks, I'll have lots to show you as we are cooking and baking, painting furniture, planting flowers and doing all of the crazy stuff that I do when I get a day (or three) off from my full time job but, or the next couple of  days, I'm going to be absent from this space.  I hope that you'll check back Tuesday to see how I spent my time and I hope that you spend your time doing whatever you love with those who are special to you.



Saturday Night Wrap Up

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When it comes to family, friends, and good food, I've found that keeping plenty of all three on hand is my preference and being creative and flexible is usually the best approach to any of them!

My Food Revolution "Moonlight, Munchies and Mason Jars" appetizer gathering turned into Food revolution "Moonlight, Main Course and Mason Jars" dinner at around 3:00 Saturday afternoon.  I scrapped most of the original menu, went to the market for some organic chicken breasts, and just over four hours later, dinner was served!

I had already baked a loaf of rosemary bread with asiago cheese and garlic which stayed on the menu. Also a "keeper," the greens that I picked from my potager.
Rosemary bread with Asiago Cheese and Garlic

Tossed green salad with fresh strawberries, toasted almonds and strawberry poppy seed dressing.
The main course became grilled balsamic-marinated chicken and vegetable shish kebab. Red, green and yellow bell pepper, purple onion, and tomatoes provided the color and 18 year old balsamic vinegar provided the basis for the flavor.

Additions to the menu (because not everyone in the group likes wild rice):
Wild rice with pecans dried fruit and pearl onions

Whole wheat penne pasta with spinach, smoked mozzarella cheese, red pepper, and  cayenne.
For dessert,  fresh fruit with (or without) homemade vanilla yogurt and homemade granola.

 Crisis avoided.

I'm happy to share the recipes with you if you'd like them, but in the interest of time and space, I've added only my favorite below. It's my "go to" summer salad dressing. Especially now, when strawberries are at their best!

Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing:
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon poppy seeds
  1. Whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt and mustard.
  2. Slowly drizzle in oil and whisk until mixture is creamy.
  3. Process strawberries  in food processor or blender until smooth and add to the mixture. Stir in poppy seeds.
  4. Chill until ready to serve.
Let's keep this revolution going, shall we!? I'll add more recipes to the blog now that summer fruit and vegetables are  more readily available in the Midwest and my potager has started to produce.

Bon Appétit!



Wicker and Shower Curtains - My $3 Patio Makeover

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A couple of weeks ago, I found two shower curtains at a garage sale for 50 cents each.  Remember? I showed them to you  hand painted rug  that I made for my patio.   I knew when I bought them that they were going to be the new covers for my patio cushions.  I brought them home and started to lay out patterns for the things that I needed to cover: 
  • One 24x60 inch Settee cushion
  • One 24x24 inch Chair cushion
  • Five 16x16 inch Pillows
  • Two 22x14 inch Pillows
  • One 18x18 inch pillow
  • Two 24x48 inch Chair Cushions
It became apparent to me fairly quickly that I wasn't going to have enough fabric. Determined that I would not purchase new fabric, I procrastinated put the project on hold until last Thursday when I was at the Goodwill and I saw this:

A HUGE piece of white, cotton, quilted, fabric; eight yards long, and it was only $1.99! I knew that if I combined the two, I'd have plenty and it would have the look and feel  that I adore, "vintage eclectic".  A look and feel that comes from putting things together over time.

Recovering the pillows was relatively easy. I don't like putting in zippers and, since I refuse to spray chemical sealant on fabric that comes in contact with bare skin, I need to be able to remove the covers to launder them.  I made simple envelope closures. To do this, I cut two pieces of fabric with one  about six inches longer than the other. I finished one edge on the shorter piece and sewed the other thee sides to the longer piece. Then, simply slipped the pillow into the case and tucked in the flap. I've decided that I'm going to add some decorative ties, but I'll need some crinkle ribbon from my friend Polly before I can do that.

The chair covers were made the same way but I added an "extra piece" at the top to keep them on the chair. I don't really like ties on cushions. This is because I generally forget to bring the cushions inside  until it starts to rain and, at that point,  it takes so long to untie them that both the cushions and me are soaked by the time I finish. 

When I started to lay out the cover for the cushion for the settee, I felt like things were getting a little "match-y" for my taste so, I grabbed a couple of old quilts from my linen closet and simply used one to wrap the cushion.

Of course, I saved the most challenging cushion for last.  I used the same design theory:  two pieces, one longer than the other. This time, however, I had to curve the corners and taper the back where the cushion gets smaller to fit the curve of the chair. To do this, I placed the cushion on top of the fabric, held a pen against the edge of the cushion, and drew a line to mark where I needed to sew.

There you have it, my $3 patio cushion makeover! You can see just a bit of the rug that I painted in some of these photos. I promise that I'll share the entire patio soon. Right now I'm on to cooking and baking for our FOOD REVOLUTION DAY gathering! 



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Munchies, Moonlight, and Mason Jars

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In case you didn't already know it, this Saturday is FOOD REVOLUTION DAY!  I'm joining celebrity chef Jaime Oliver, thousands of other people around the world, (and just a few of my friends), to raise awareness about eating real food, cooking without processed ingredients and, in general, putting FOOD back on the agenda. It's intended to be a day to get people talking about  and sharing, and cooking, real food from fresh ingredients. It's about educating our children (and ourselves) about our right to good food.  I've been "talking food" and cooking with my sons since they were young and I've seen, first hand, the impact that education has made now that they're making many of their own food choices. 

I'm hosting a small gathering tomorrow night, cooking with fresh ingredients from local sources (including lettuce from the Potager that I built earlier this spring).  I wanted it to have a casual feel and yet, to have a sense of purpose. I wanted a theme that would be memorable enough to cause my guests to be reminded of the reason that we're together (I mean, other than our common love of food and sparkling personalities! *wink*)

Given that I have boxes of my Grandmother's mason jars sitting in the cabinet waiting for canning season to roll around again and given that they're FREE,  I decided to incorporate them into the theme for the evening. Out of that, the theme was born:

 I made simple, triple-fold invitations using an image that I found at The Graphics Fairy.  
The decor: Vintage Kitchen Cooking and Baking Items

Clear and Turquoise Mason Jars: 
  • Filled with Epsom Salts  and votive candles on the table and the patio
  • Filled with White spring flowers: Peonies and Daisies (since the town flower of CH is the daisy...we even have an annual festival called "Daisy Days" which is held on Father's Day Weekend).
  • As holders for silverware and beverages
The centerpiece:
  • Colanders: filled with fresh produce and mason jars with flowers 
The SWAG (purchased at Dollar Tree):
  • A Spray Bottle filled with home made veggie wash
  • A Veggie brush and peeler
  • A Re-usable bag for produce 
  • A  list of the dates, times and locations of farmer's markets in the area.
              Recipe for veggie wash:
             1 Cup water
             1 Cup white vinegar
             1 Tablespoon baking soda
             Juice of 1/2 lemon
 Combine all ingredients and put in a spray bottle.  Spray produce with solution and let sit for 5 minutes. Rinse well.

On the menu: 
Desserts (made and served in Mason jars):
  • Strawberry Shortcake
  • Banana Pudding
  • Malted Vanilla Pudding
I'm sure that there will be last minute additions and changes but the main thing is, I'm doing what I can to spread the word and I hope that you will too.

If you're hosting an event, (or even if you're not), please let me know how you're celebrating so that I can include you in the wrap up post. Check back for photos and details on Sunday.

Have a wonderful weekend!