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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Prairie Pinks

Prairie wetland area, mostly green and brown

When I think of Illinois prairies, I picture mostly yellows and browns, especially in the late summer -- the goldenrods, black-eyed Susans, various types of sunflowers, grass seed heads, Monarch and Sulphur butterflies -- but there are also many touches of pink and purple, especially if you look closely.

Obedient Plant (?)

Alfie and I had a long ramble in the prairie today.  First we tramped around the wetland area.  Despite the lack of rain the last couple of months, the wetland was full and wet. Enormous frogs hopped further into the water as we passed by.  I would have taken some pictures, but I didn't have my long lens, and I do NOT get close to frogs.  I am creeped out by frogs and toads ever since as a young teenager I accidentally squashed a toad while wearing thin-soled house shoes.  Ugh, even thinking about it gives me the heebie jeebies.

Near the wetland, we saw something nicer than frogs: fun little flowers called Blue (or Swamp) Vervain and Pink Lady's Thumb.
Blue Vervain on left and Pink Lady's Thumb on right
After getting our fill of the wetland area, Alfie and I crossed over to the dog portion of the prairie where he could run off leash and sniff and explore to his heart's content.  While he nosed into holes, the creek, and a neighboring cornfield, I found additional pink and purple flowers.

Bees hard at work on Joe Pye Weed (or maybe it's Queen of the Prairie?)
Thistle and Coneflower
The bluish-purple wild bee balm was beginning to fade, but there were still enough blossoms to feed a hungry Monarch butterfly.


Finally, Alfie and I were both getting tired.  We stopped by a sunflower-framed bridge for a short rest and a drink of water for Alfie, then headed home.  Thanks for coming along!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Louise's Basket

I really don't buy much in the way of home goods these days, honest. But this weekend, we passed by a group of three little antique shops in Starks, Illinois, a crossroads near Huntley. The husband has a particular fondness for a couple of these shops because in the past he has found vintage hand tools there, notably several hand drills which he cleaned up, oiled, and gave to our kids. He's currently on the lookout for some kind of tool thing, I can't remember what, so we stopped. My favorite of the three shops is called Rose and Rooster or Rooster and Rose, some such name that sounds like a British pub. It is a tiny little shop that is packed and stacked to the point that I always walk carefully through, clutching my purse to my side to prevent knocking something off. I think I always buy something there, so it's lucky I don't go very often. My latest find: a small picnic basket.

At thirteen inches wide by eight inches deep, it's not too small, not too big -- just right.
The shape and style first caught my eye; it's so much like the baskets my mother-in-law used to buy. Then, the surprise inside: it still has its grid which provides a protected space for a pie or other delicate item to fit on the bottom.


What clinched the sale, however, was the handwritten name on the front and inside of the basket.


Louise Gerhardt had written her name and the name of her small Illinois town on the basket. While I have no connection to this family or even the name Louise, the personal touch of the hand printed name just grabbed me. Baskets like this date from the 1940s according to an article I saw online.  I imagine Mrs.Gerhardt taking this to a church supper and making dead sure she got her basket back. She lived in a town not too far from us. I Googled her name and town (the husband said he knew I would), and found that she was born in 1899 and died in 1978. She and her husband are buried in a town in the southern part of the county.

I found some very similar baskets for sale online -- one for $58 and one for $72.  Want to know how much I paid? $12.76 including tax. I call that a deal. It needs some cleaning up, but I love my new/old picnic basket. Thanks, Mrs. Gerhardt, I'll treasure your basket, and if I take it anywhere, I'll make dead sure I get it back.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Yikes! Where Did Summer Go?

I know it's still summer, still warm and humid here in northern Illinois, but I'm feeling like summer is beginning to wind down and fall will be here before I know it. One indication of a looming autumn is my garden. The last daylily bloomed this week. The late summer surprise lilies are still in bloom, but already beginning to fade.
My garden gets bedraggled in August. Asters: I think asters might be an answer. There used to be an older lady, Eve, in our neighborhood who grew gorgeous purple and pink asters along her parkway. Her yard was a cheery sight as the dog days of summer faded away. Once her husband caught someone picking the flowers! I guess the woman thought the parkway was public property. Sadly, Eve is gone and so are her asters.


My summer has been busy; I've been
working, visiting family, and crocheting.
Right now I'm making some retro-y pillow
covers that I'll show you when I've finished
the second one.

In the meantime, I can show you a Queen Ann's
Lace scarf I completed recently. My daughter
had given me some luscious alpaca yarn for
Christmas (Cascade Yarns Baby Alpaca
Chunky Paints), which worked up beautifully.
Maybe the fall colors of the yarn are what make
me think summer is over.

These autumn colors and the fallen leaves I've
been finding in the birdbath need to be a spur to
me to finish all the projects I had planned for the
summer. I have another pathway to dig, shrubs
to prune, birdhouse to clean out, etc., etc.

Hope you're enjoying whatever season you're in!



Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Beans, a Bathroom, and a Beetle for Good Measure

What do you get when you mix garbanzo beans, a bathroom renovation, and a red beetle?  A post about my summer. Here it is, already July.  The summer is flying by.  Summer is the time we do a lot of grilling and I begin to crave salads.  Yesterday, I finished up a bowl of tabouli at lunch and immediately wondered what kind of salad I could concoct for dinner (without a trip to the store).  Answer -- garbanzo, tomato, basil.  Yum.


There are lots of versions of this salad on the internet, but this is my take on it.

Tomato Garbanzo Salad

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2-3 tablespoons finely minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt


Mix together beans, tomatoes, basil, onion, and garlic.  Whisk oil, vinegar and salt together in small bowl and pour over the salad.  Mix well.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes to an hour.  Use slotted spoon to transfer salad to serving dish. 



In other news, we spent nine days last month at our daughter's house continuing the bathroom remodel.  We worked probably eight hours a day, but we were really down to the wire at the end.  The husband was grouting the tiled walls the Saturday she and I moved her furniture in.  Fortunately, the plumber came promptly the following Monday to hook up the faucets, etc.

There is still work to do -- priming and painting and some trim work -- but the hard work is all finished.  New cement board and drywall, tile floor and walls (hard to see here, but there is white subway tile up about four feet and all the way to the ceiling around the tub), new sink and medicine cabinet, new wood trim around door and window and a new bifold door.  The old door opened in and hit the sink.  It had to be closed in order to wash one's hands.  Not ideal.  We had hoped to install a sliding door, but the walls were not large enough to accommodate one.

I think it turned out pretty well.  But about that floor . . . .  The one-inch hexagon tiles come on a mesh sheet to make application easier.  The trouble is, the design has a lot more black in it than what you see here.  "Too busy. Too much black."  So the daughter pulled off about thirteen black tiles for every square foot of tile. That meant that when laying it (while the daughter was conveniently away at work), we had to hand insert white tiles in the wet mortar. Tedious.  Then when grouting, some of the hand-inserted white tiles shifted or even came loose.  A nightmare.  As long as no one looks too closely, however, it looks fine.  As I told the daughter, we weren't charging her for labor, and you get what you pay for.

Finally, I'll leave you with a picture of a little critter we saw at the prairie the other morning.  A cute milkweed beetle resting on a milkweed that is ready to burst into bloom.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

What I've Learned in May

Honeysuckles blooming in May
On this last day of May, I've been thinking about all the things I've learned this month.

Early in the month, I learned that I am not a hang-tough-and-fight girl, at least when it comes to illness.  The husband and I both came down with some kind of virus. The only symptoms were a cough and extreme fatigue. It was the fatigue that got me.  I hadn't been sick in several years, not even a cold, and I was NOT a trouper.  I just wanted to lie down and die.  I realized that if I had a serious terminal illness, after I died no one would say I had fought a courageous battle.  They would have to say, "She just lay down on her couch and gave up."

Second try?  Taken from our upstairs porch.

I learned anew that nature is red in tooth and claw.  You may remember last year when I rhapsodized about our little robin fledglings.  The robins returned this year and built a nest in the same spot on top of the bat house.  I kept anxious watch and soon spied three tiny heads.  Then one day, I was standing in the yard and I heard a tremendous squawking.  I looked up and saw two adult robins chasing a hawk away from the nest.  The hawk had come in like a silent assassin.  I never heard a thing until it was too late.  Sadly, all three baby robins were gone.

There is a robin sitting on a new nest nearby, however, so maybe the same robins rebuilt and are trying again.  This nest is on the house; I hope it is more protected from hungry hawks.


I also learned that time, like birds, really can fly.  Our youngest starts his first grown-up job tomorrow.  He has essentially forbidden me to mention him in my blog, so I can't reveal much, but we are pleased and excited for him. Our other child, our daughter, closed on a house this month on her 26th birthday.


It's a little cottage not far from the library where she heads up youth services.  It's a darling house and, with a little work, will be quite charming.  But here's the thing: I'm pretty sure this new homeowner was in kindergarten only a couple of years ago.  When I think about my kids, it's like a movie with flashbacks and flashforwards.  They are toddlers, then -- whoosh -- they are adults with paychecks and mortgages.

Related to the passage of time and the daughter's house, I learned that I am not as young as I once was.  Of course, everyone knows that's true, but a little physical home rehab work makes it all the more obvious.  The husband and I have done a lot of rehab work over the years -- tearing out plaster and carpet, building walls, stripping woodwork and wallpaper, endless painting, etc., etc.  Much of that, however, was done when we were in our salad days.  I spent about ten days at our daughter's house this month, painting, ripping out a bathroom, and let's just say: my salad days have wilted.
We made good progress.  We got the bathroom down to the studs and subfloor. The bathroom looks like tile in the pictures, but it was fake tile hardboard.  Around the tub, the hardboard was covered with another surface!  We repaired and filled woodwork and repainted the larger bedroom (pink with white trim!).  In the bedroom, I re-learned another lesson.  Knotty pine must be primed with shellac-based primer.  Kilz does NOT cover knots.  I knew that, but was stupid and didn't think it through.  So now her sloping pine ceiling has four coats of paint -- Kilz, paint, Zinsser BIN, paint.  Whew!

Finally in May, I learned that a climbing hydrangea is worth waiting years for.  I planted a hydrangea vine quite some years ago, more than five for sure.  Last year I had one bloom and was very pleased.  This year, it exploded. Absolutely worth the wait!


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Trying Some New Recipes

In my ongoing quest to shake up the menus around here, I recently tried a couple of new recipes.  One is a soup that appeared in the March 2015 issue of Country Living.  It's a lemony chicken orzo soup.  Since I love Panera Bread's version, I figured it was well worth a try.


It's light, yet filling.  The fresh dill adds a nice touch.  You can find the recipe on the Country Living site here.

An even better success was a scrumptious mini chocolate chip Bundt cake.  It was a big hit with me and our son.  I found this recipe in one of those compilation fundraiser cookbooks -- love those.

My cake stuck to the pan a little bit, as you can see in the photo below.  The topping is put in the pan first, and is maybe a little too buttery.  Tastes great, but leaves the fingers a little greasy if eating out of hand.

Nutty on top!

Imminently snackable
Toll House Bundt Cake
from A Cookbook by Sunset House Auxiliary Toledo Ohio (1991)


2 3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vinegar
1 cup less 1 Tablespoon milk
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
4 eggs
1/2 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Nut Topping:
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/3 cup chopped nuts

For topping, combine butter, sugar and nuts; mix until crumbly.  Spoon into well-greased and floured 12-inch Bundt (or tube) pan.  Chill in refrigerator while you prepare cake batter.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  Place vinegar in 1 cup measure, fill with milk to 1 cup line; set aside.

In large mixing bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and vanilla; beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Turn mixer to low.  Gradually add flour mixture, 1/3 at a time, alternating with milk.

Gently fold in chocolate mini chips with a rubber spatula.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 50 minutes.  Loosen edges of cake with spatula.  Immediately invert on cooking rack.


Printable recipe

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Signs of Life

Spring, in all its fickle glory, has arrived in northern Illinois.  The earth is slowly coming back to life after our long, snowy winter.  Spring flowers are beginning to bloom, trees are budding, and the grass is greening up.  Despite the general greening, there are still dead leaves hanging around from last fall, which drive me crazy.  You'll see some in the picture below.  We rake multiple times in the fall, and I have been raking and hand gathering leaves for two weeks, and they just keep appearing.  Maybe once we mow the grass, the remaining leaves will be gone.

I love spring.  It's such a joy to be back in the garden.  One of my favorite things in our spring yard is the carpet of blue flowers under the hackberry tree.  They are quite common in our neighborhood, and I believe they are Siberian squill.  Whatever they are, I adore them.


Here is a close-up view of the squill.


I always have big dreams for the garden in the spring.  This year, it's adding birdhouses (One is already built and put up!  I'd show you a photo, but we knocked off a design we saw on the internet, and it turns out, it is a copyrighted design.  Oops.), and putting in mulch paths in some very shady areas where grass just will not grow.  We'll see how much I actually get done.  In the meantime, I hope the weather is nice wherever you are.


    

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Tale of Two Shrimp

We love seafood here at the Sweet Posy house.  Shrimp is one of my favorites (and clams, and trout, and salmon; okay, okay, I'll stop).  This is a tale of two shrimp dishes.

Our son gave me a wonderful cookbook for Christmas, The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka.  (Homolka also writes a blog which you can find here.)  We've been trying lots of fabulous, healthy entrees from the book.  Almost everything we've tried has been a hit except the Silky Chocolate Cream Pie, not a fan of that one.  One of my favorite recipes from the cookbook is Cilantro Lime Shrimp, which I have made several times.  Recently when I pulled out a bag of frozen shrimp to thaw for dinner, my son expressed a little bit of boredom at the prospect of Cilantro Lime Shrimp again.

So I looked around online for another shrimp recipe and, since the weather had warmed up enough to grill, a grilled Cajun shrimp recipe sounded good to both of us.  We served it over quinoa with grilled vegetables, and it turned out beautifully.  Beautiful to look at, that is.


I like fairly spicy food, but this was so spicy hot that my lips tingled for at least half an hour after dinner!  Yikes!  I didn't save the recipe, so I can't link to it, but as I recall it contained three tablespoons of Cajun seasoning for two pounds of shrimp.  (I use a homemade version of Emeril Essence.)  I know we reduced the seasoning a bit, but whatever it was, it was WAY too much.  I couldn't face peppery food for days afterward.

About a week later, I pulled out another bag of shrimp.  There was a little grumbling from a certain quarter, but I made the Cilantro Lime Shrimp again.  The husband completely understood why -- I had to get the taste and memory of that super hot shrimp out of my mind.  I served the Cilantro Lime Shrimp (recipe here) over brown rice seasoned with cumin, lime juice, and cilantro.  Bliss.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kitchen Refresh or What Goes Around Comes Around


When we bought our house twenty years ago, the kitchen was not one of its selling points.  If we were to list it for sale tomorrow, the kitchen still would not be a selling point.  It is a small kitchen with three doorways and three windows, so there's not much room for actual kitchen.  When we moved in, the kitchen had white painted cabinets and woodwork, a marvelous marble counter, yellow checked wallpaper, a wall-mounted farmhouse sink with attached drainboard (no dishwasher), an old linoleum floor, a gas stove in the middle of the room (if the oven door was open, it blocked the walkway in and out of the room), and a smallish avocado green refrigerator next door in the butler's pantry.

The first improvement was to have the stove turned so that the oven door wouldn't be a danger to our two small children if they came running into the kitchen at the wrong moment.  After a couple of years, I had an architect acquaintance come over to give us some ideas of what we could do to improve the layout.  Knowing we had a moderate budget and couldn't add on, he was pretty much stumped.  After much thought (literally it took us several years to think of what to do), we finally had an aha moment.   We relocated the pantry doorway from the kitchen to the butler's pantry.  So the refrigerator was able to move from the butler's pantry into the actual kitchen.  Hooray!  We also extended the wall maybe three feet or so to make it one flat wall instead of a jig-jog.

The new (year 2000) wall being constructed.  You can see see the avocado fridge on the left.  Where the
refrigerator was is now the doorway to the pantry.  One the right, the farmhouse sink with painted cabinets.

We had a cabinetmaker make cabinets for the new wall and also for the sink area.  We removed the farmhouse sink -- it was cool, but there was no way to put a dishwasher under it -- and installed a new cabinet there with a deep sink and a dishwasher.  Another hooray.  We did save the old wall-mounted Chicago faucet, which I love.  We stripped all the woodwork and cabinet boxes and had inset yellow pine doors made for the existing cabinets.  We were unwilling to replace the main original cabinet because of the old marble counter.  We feared breaking it if it were removed.  Yellow pine was chosen to match the existing woodwork. We uncovered the old pine floor, which we sanded and refinished.  I found a fun graphic chicken wire wallpaper for above and we hired a friend to install white subway tile below the molding throughout the room.  Not knowing what to do with the new counter by the sink (marble seemed pricey and also hard to match the original piece), we decided to have it tiled also.

So the kitchen was refreshed.  But mistakes were made.  Yes, mistakes were made.  The pine floor didn't last long at all.  It was too fragile and chippy and hard to clean.  An easy-to-mop vinyl soon covered the floor.  Now fifteen years later, we finally have gotten around to correcting some of the other mistakes.  Granted, those mistakes weren't obvious for several years.  Like the warping of the pine doors.  Like how hard it is to keep a tile counter clean (grout lines!).
Warped doors
From a distance, even after fifteen years, our kitchen didn't look bad.  It was in keeping with the style of the house and all that.

Before the latest refresh

Still, I was ready for a change -- an improvement.  The timing was right: Our son has been home
Unfinished doors
since graduating college in December, so I had a willing and competent helper.  First, he built all new plywood doors.  We elected to go with overlay doors this time to (we hope!) eliminate the risk of warping.  He also built three new drawers to replace the original ones seen in the picture above.  They had no slides, just wood on wood, and I frequently had to clean sawdust out of the lower drawers.

Painted doors and new hardware (poor lighting)
Though I was sad to see it go, we stripped off the chicken wire wallpaper.  It was old and needed to be removed.  We sanded the finish off the cabinets and primed and painted the cabinets and doors.  I was pretty set on the type of paint for the cabinets, Sherwin-Williams ProClassic water-based acrylic-alkyd, because I wanted something durable.  There was a lot of agonizing, however, over paint colors.  I painted samples on boards and foam core and we moved them around the room for a couple of days.  Finally, we decided it wasn't going to matter too much between three shades of very similar white for the cabinets and just picked one (Westhighland White).  The walls were painted with Behr Marquee in Studio Clay.  The Dutch door got a coat of Valspar Reserve color matched to Behr Winter in Paris.  We left all the trim natural wood.  

The cabinets were painted and awaiting doors when I decided I really DID have to replace that tile counter.

We replaced the old brass hardware with nickel hinges and handles.  After some debate and online research, we decided to tear off the tile countertop and replace it with butcher block, which we sealed with Waterlox.  We found some butcher block at a reasonable price and it is very DIY friendly.  I also decided to leave the doors off the large wall cabinet, and so far, I'm really liking the openness and ease of grabbing a plate or a spice jar.  Overall, I'm very pleased.  In a perfect world (i.e., one with unlimited funds), we would also have replaced the white appliances with stainless steel, but that definitely wasn't in the budget.  For a relatively modest sum, I have an updated kitchen that is fresh and bright.  And we're back to white painted cabinets.  What goes around comes around I guess.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Llama Llama, But No Red Pajamas

I'm not dead, but I sure have been MIA from blogland for a while.  I've had ideas for posts and even taken some photos, but haven't had the time to actually get it done.  But then, I met a llama, and I wanted to share it with you.

We were over in Iowa this weekend and stopped at the Overland store in Fairfield.  If you haven't heard of Overland, it's a wonderful (though pricey) store that specializes in sheepskin.  Fairfield is the headquarters, but there are sixteen stores altogether.  I was looking for a sheepskin for my office chair, and I found a lovely taupe one that is so luxurious, I feel quite spoiled.

But more fun than the store itself is the llama herd that lives out back.  It was a warm-ish, sunny day, and the whole herd was out in the fields.  Luckily, there were a couple of sweetie pies up near the fence.


As my son was snapping this with his phone, he said, "Watch out," and in a couple of seconds, I felt llama lips in my hair.  I don't know if it was thinking of taking a bite, but I didn't give it a chance!

A photo of the shop, taken on a previous visit.

Once before when I was at the Fairfield Overland, I talked to an employee about the company and the farm. She said the owners (I think it's a family-owned company) used to raise sheep and did much of the sewing in the barn that also houses the shop.  When they quit raising sheep, they began to raise llamas.  My daughter remembers the story as having something to do with llama meat, which never quite panned out. Regardless, they now have a large herd of llamas which I believe are pretty much just for fun.  Certainly we had fun seeing them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Too Much Bacon? Oh, Clam Up!

Yesterday was one of those cook-from-the-pantry days.  It was gray and rainy, and I didn't want to go to the grocery store.  I almost always have pasta and cans of chopped clams in my pantry, so linguine with clam sauce seemed to fill the bill.  Clams are supposed to be high in protein, iron and other minerals, and B12.  They are also low in fat.  So what's the best way to take this healthy food and make it less healthy, but very, very tasty?  Bacon!  Ten slices of bacon!  It's a lot of bacon, but too much?  I'd say, just right.

Mmmm, bacon!

Bacon and clam sauce is a special, yummy treat at our house.  Even though I usually have the ingredients for this dish on hand (except for fresh parsley in the winter), I don't make it often because of all the bacon.  We LOVE bacon, but it's not exactly health food, is it?  How cool is it, though, that a special treat dish also happens to be one I can whip up when the fridge is kind of bare?  In addition to the bacon, garlic and cayenne pepper give this dish a lot of flavor.

Luckily there was still
parsley in the garden.
This recipe, with only slight modifications, comes from a great little soft cover cookbook called All the Best Pasta Sauces by Joie Warner.  My copy is from 1987, but you can still get the book on Amazon, lots of used copies available too.  It's a wonderful little book if you like pasta.

Crispy Bacon and Clam Linguine
Slightly adapted from All the Best Pasta Sauces by Joie Warner

10 slices bacon, preferably smoked
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound linguine
1 small onion, finely chopped
3-4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley (can omit if you don’t have fresh, or add a tablespoon dried parsley in last step of cooking)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 5-ounce cans chopped clams, drained, reserving 1/4 cup broth
Grated Parmesan cheese

Lots of clams, too, not just bacon.
Heat water for linguine.

Fry bacon in large skillet until crisp.  Remove bacon to paper-towel-lined plate.  Pour out bacon drippings, reserving 1/4 cup.  Return 1/4 cup bacon drippings to skillet.  Break bacon into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Begin cooking linguine.

Add olive oil to bacon drippings in skillet.  Heat over medium heat and add onion and garlic.  Cook about 3 minutes, until tender.  Add fresh parsley, cayenne, and black pepper, and cook about 2 minutes.  Stir in clams and broth (add dried parsley here if using).   Cook until heated through.  

Combine with hot pasta, top with bacon pieces and toss to combine.  Top with grated cheese if desired.


Serves four.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Target: "Anything You Can Do, We Can Do Cheaper"


After my latest trip down south, I've been feeling calm and in control.  Getting some work done, taking some walks (like the above view of the prairie park last Sunday morning), doing some errands.

One such errand was this morning.  I stopped by Target to pick up three birthday cards.  I milled around, decided to pick up some Diet Cokes and a couple of toys for Alfie.  Then THIS happened:



Get outta town!  Are you seeing what I'm seeing?  Woven yarn baskets?  I don't know whether to feel like I'm ahead of the curve for already having made numerous crocheted baskets myself or way behind the trend since Target has already reduced the price.  $15.99.  It's tough to buy the yarn that cheaply.  I'll confess: the air went out of my balloon a bit.  Just last week I was feeling accomplished and cool as I finished the daughter's requested set of nesting baskets. Now I see that they need to be moved to the clearance bin.  Sigh.

Nesting basket set, un-nested, but handmade.

Nesting basket set, nested.
See the wonky edge? Proof it's handmade.

In addition to finishing up the nesting baskets, I began crocheting a lace scarf with some of the Serenity Garden yarn I showed in my last post.  I'm using the Strawberry Lace pattern from the Crochet Noro book.  It's slow going and I'm not sure I love it, but I'll be able to tell better once it's finished and blocked.

Fall is arriving here in northern Illinois.  Beautiful cool weather and blue skies today.  Perfect.  We even had clear skies for that fabulous blood moon on Wednesday morning.  We couldn't see it at the house because of all the trees, but when we went for our walk around 5:45 (a little earlier than usual), the moon was in its glory.  We felt lucky to get to see it.







Colorful and healthy!





Fall also means the end of summer vegetables.  The husband stopped by a farm stand earlier this week, however, and loaded up on some beautiful zucchini and sweet peppers.  I roasted the lot with russet potatoes and chicken, all tossed in olive oil, garlic, and lots of fresh rosemary.  A feast!  I only have a before picture because we were too eager to eat to snap any shots after it came out of the oven.

So that's what I've been up to lately.  I hope early fall is colorful and peaceful at your house, too.  Just be very careful which aisles you walk down in Target.  Don't let your handcrafted balloon burst.