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 bit 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.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Yarn Crazy

Completed large basket and almost completed medium
basket with lots of Thick and Quick still to use up!
I've gone a little crazy this week -- yarn crazy.  I'm still working on crocheted baskets.  My daughter has requested a set of nesting baskets.  I guess she assumes I have some kind of control over the size they turn out.  I finished a large one and then ran out of Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick partway through the middle-sized basket.  I made several trips to two different Michael's stores and only found one more skein in the correct color, barley. I called around and even looked online, and the Michael's web site was out, too.  Then I discovered four skeins at my local Jo-Ann Fabric, so yesterday I rushed over and bought all of them.  I should have more than enough to finish the set of three baskets.  And isn't that what yarn hoards are all about?  Having more than enough?

While I was milling around Jo-Ann, I came across Crochet Noro, published by Sixth&Spring Books. While I told myself that I can find plenty of lovely free patterns on Ravelry, I didn't listen and splurged on it.  My first project is going to be the Strawberry Lace Scarf.  The Noro Shiraito yarn called for in the pattern, however, costs $30 for 198 yards, and two skeins are needed.  I can't see that much of a splurge, so today I drove about twenty miles to a neighboring town with a larger Jo-Ann Fabric.  I knew from their web site that they had Premier Serenity Garden yarn in stock.  I went with the intention of picking up three skeins of the hibiscus color.  Well, here's what I came home with:

I think I was feeling colorful.

Gotta love the red sticker!
Yes, that's twelve skeins of yarn.  Four Serenity Garden in hibiscus, four in crocus, and four Hipster yarns in flamingo.  The Hipster yarn was on clearance.  It has a cool name and it's pink, so I couldn't resist it.  And at $1.97 each, why not?  When I texted my daughter that I'd bought twelve skeins of yarn, she wanted to know what I am planning to make.  Um, scarves . . . because the gazillion scarves already in the scarf drawer don't count? Actually, it's because I am getting ready to drive down to Tennessee for my third week-long visit in six weeks. While I am there, I need plenty of projects to keep me busy.  Last trip, my mother kept asking if I wasn't tired of crocheting baskets.  The answer to that was no, but I made a doily just to be agreeable.  (My first thread doily.  It was pretty bad, so there's no photo.)

As you can imagine, I'm not making all these nine-and-a-half-hour drives just for fun, but these colorful yarns will be sure to provide a bright spot in the next week.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Peaceful Place

Today I took a little mental health break.  I slipped on rubber shoes, bundled Alfie into the car, and drove about ten miles south to a nearby prairie park.  (I've written about this park several times before, here, here, and here.) As I drove, I found myself hoping that no one else would be there on this cool and sunny Monday morning.  As I neared the entrance, I could see another car in the dusty gravel parking lot.  I pulled in and saw a man just crossing the road to enter the "dog prairie" where dogs are allowed off leash.  He turned left, the same way I always walk.

In the middle of nowhere at the prairie.  Sorry for the photo quality; I didn't
want to lug around my camera, so this was taken with my old, refurbished iphone.

Wanting solitude and quiet, I decided not to cross over to the dog prairie, but to strike out along a path leading north, toward the main preserve (the area is called a forest preserve even though there's precious little in the way of trees).  I had never walked that way before, and wasn't sure if the path would make a circuit or dead end somewhere.  It was perfect.  A 25-minute tramp took us past the prairie, near a farm, and into the south end of the original park.  There was scarcely a sound to be heard.  A plane flew high overhead and once I heard a faraway train whistle.  Otherwise, it was quiet and peaceful.  There were lots of small white, and a few yellow, butterflies, plus I saw one monarch, or perhaps it was a viceroy.  A couple of hawks or buzzards circled the sky and numerous smaller birds called from the tall grasses and the few trees.  Ducks quacked, geese honked, dragonflies divebombed, and crickets chirped.  After turning a bend to come around the pond, I saw two lovely white herons, and two little blue herons or possibly immature white herons.  I am no birder, but I do know they were all beautiful.

After almost an hour, Alfie and I returned to the car, both refreshed from our walk in the peaceful prairie.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Basket Case!

Last week I was down south visiting the old, the sick, and the infirm (aka my family).  While I was there, sometimes with not much to do, I became something of a basket case.  Crocheted baskets!

Aren't the little handles adorable?

I blame my basket craze on Meredith at Mereknits.  Toward the end of August, she began posting pictures of a basket she had crocheted.  Yowza, I was hooked (sorry).  So I hopped on over to Crochet in Color, where Meredith got her pattern, and promptly downloaded the pattern for myself.

Last week I crocheted FOUR baskets.  You can really tell how poor my crochet skills are when I tell you that none of the four baskets turned out the same size or even quite the same shape!  I gave a mulberry-colored one to my mother, so I don't have pictures of it, but you can see what I mean with the picture of the other three.

No consistency at all!
The baskets are worked with a double strand of super bulky yarn.  For some reason, I had the most trouble with the beige basket.  The yarn is all the same brand, Yarn Bee Effortless Super Bulky, but the beige was "hairier" and my hook got caught more often.  Maybe that is why I hooked it tighter.  Another factor that made them different is that with the first one (far right), I accidentally hooked the sides from the inside out (working on the far edge of the basket rather than the side nearest me).  I don't know how I got that going, but I think that's what gave it the slightly bulbous shape.  The second basket (center) was made "correctly," or at least as correctly as I could do it.  It has straight sides.  Because I'd seen the bulbous one first, though, I kind of liked it better, so I made the third basket hooking the sides inside out again.

When I brought home my basket haul, the husband wondered what I am going to do with them.  I could see one in Florida holding sunscreen.  My brother suggested a smaller one with shorter sides as a place to throw car keys.  I'm not sure what will happen to these, but there is some gray Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick in my yarn bag waiting to be made into yet another basket!

I think I may be developing an addiction.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Got Parsley?

It's late summer and the herb pot is full and luxurious.  There's a lot of parsley out there needing to be eaten.  What to do?  Make tabouli!

Tabouli (also spelled tabbouleh) is one of my favorite salads -- so fresh, yet hearty.  Late summer is the perfect time to make it, with lots of parsley and garden fresh tomatoes available.  Making tabouli requires a fair bit of chopping.  You can use a food processor if you wish, but I like to chop everything by hand, so that I get the sizes exactly the way I want them.  I enjoy it.  Plus, after chopping all that parsley and mint, my kitchen smells divine.  So, turn on some fun music and get chopping!

This particular salad was made to strains of The Supremes and Sly and the Family Stone.
"Everybody is a Star," especially you when you serve this yummy salad to friends and family.


Adapted from Nikki & David Goldbeck’s American Wholefoods Cuisine

1/2 cup cracked or bulgur wheat
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves
1 cucumber, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
1 large tomato, diced (about 1 cup)
3 scallions, sliced thin
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Soak the wheat in hot water for about 15 minutes.  Drain well, squeezing out all water.  Toss all ingredients together, stirring to mix well.  Chill or serve immediately at room temperature.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Meet Percy, FFD

Meet the newest member of our extended family -- Percy.  I call him Percy, FFD, which stands for Face Free Dog.

This is the best I could do to capture what little face this dog has.

Our daughter got Percy, a shih tzu puppy, over the July 4 weekend, so he's now about 15 weeks old.  We got to meet him a couple of weeks ago.  What a funny, nutty puppy he is!  Poor Alfie didn't know what to make of him.  Percy wanted so much to be his friend, but Alfie quickly got fed up with having this little nipper following him around and trying to bite his tail.

Our daughter is a youth services librarian, and she plans for Percy to become a library dog.  He already goes to work with her every day.  Right now, he stays in his crate in the break room, and the librarians visit him during their lunches and breaks.  She will start him in puppy classes soon, though, and eventually have him certified as a therapy dog. Once that happens, he will be able to serve as a reading buddy for the kids.  Read to a Dog programs have become very popular at libraries and schools as a way to encourage reluctant readers with a non-judgmental audience.

The future library hound and his librarian owner.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Throwback Thursday

I've never done a Throwback Thursday post before.  Never even thought about it.  Then last week, my father-in-law e-mailed my husband some pictures he had taken of us in 1984 -- thirty years ago!  This was before we were married, after we had known each other about a year.  I'm not sure I had ever seen these pictures before, and I had completely forgotten the day they were taken, so they came as a real bolt from the blue.  Who were those impossibly young people?  What did they imagine their lives held in store?

When these pictures were taken, we lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, on the same street -- Harper Avenue -- a block apart.  I lived in a comparatively large first floor studio that cost $300 a month.  My dad built a large bookcase that I used to divide the room into a sleeping half and a living room half.  The future husband lived in a tiny studio with a Murphy bed.  I believe his kitchen was basically a closet.  There was a little shopping center, Harper Court, in between our apartment buildings.  When I remember Harper Court as it was then, it was something of a marvel.  This was before chain stores flooded the neighborhood.  Harper Court had, among other things, a fabulous independent toy store, just perfect in every way, a Danish furniture store, a florist, and an artists' co-op with work by local artists.  There were checkerboard benches in the center of the square where old men played chess on sunny days.  The pictures were taken in a wonderful Japanese restaurant in Harper Court that was the first place I ever saw with a sushi bar.  They also served very tasty tempura and salmon teriyaki, but the biggest treat was the red bean ice cream that they flew in from Japan.  

Sadly, the restaurant no longer exists.  And really, neither do these two impossibly young people.  After thirty years, of course we're older (with more girth and less hair) and, one hopes, a bit wiser.  Less dewy-eyed, with perhaps fewer dreams.  The people we've become, though, are okay too -- even if we no longer know where to find red bean ice cream.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Greeted by Golden Trumpets

Trumpet lilies, that is.  If you stop by our house at the right time in the summer, you are greeted by fragrant yellow lilies by the front steps.
A hand-me-down from my mother's garden many years ago,
these lilies reach more than four feet tall, so they do require staking.

We have been repainting the porch this summer, and I have enjoyed the occasional bursts of scent wafting from the lilies when a breeze blows.  It makes the arduous task of scraping and painting a little bit sweeter. 

I wish you could smell them!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Dog Walking Beanie Hats

Don't be fooled.  This is his mid-day look.
At 5:30 a.m., he's jumping on the bed.
Here at the Posy house, we are an early rising bunch, and Alfie, that sly dog, is the earliest of all.  Most mornings, he's up and at 'em by 5:30 and ready for his walk.  We actually like to walk early.  It's a bit quieter -- fewer cars on the street -- and we are more likely to spot wildlife as we walk along the river.  There are others who walk or jog around the same time, so we are often able to greet one or two "regulars" and share news of deer or fox sightings or remark on the weather or what have you.

The only trouble with walking first thing, before breakfast and showers, is that my hair often looks like I just rolled out of bed which, of course, I did, but one doesn't want to go out in public like that, even if it is 5:45 a.m.  I have lots of hats for winter walks and that works great as hair camouflage.  Summer is a little tougher.  I've never been a girl to wear a baseball cap.  This summer, I did swipe one from our son's room -- a jazzy plaid number -- and have worn it a few times, but it's really not me.

acrylic version

So I found this little hat pattern, available from DROPS Design.  I have crocheted two of them so far, both in self-striping sock yarn.  The first I made in acrylic, which is really perfect for a summer morning as it's not too hot.  The most recent one I made with wool sock yarn which I had left over from a scarf I made last winter.  They're goofy looking but I like them, and I don't have to worry if my hair is sticking up weird or anything.

Little granny squares with simple double crochet for the body of the cap and as a border below.
I'm afraid, though, that this latest hat will be my last crochet project for a while.  I have developed what I believe is tendinitis in my elbow.  I am going to lay off the needlework and heavy lifting to see if it improves.  I've been doing a lot of outside work lately too (carrying those concrete stepping stones yesterday didn't help), so I'll ease up and see if the pain eases up too.  Any of you crocheters ever have similar trouble?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Crazy Granny Stashghan

If you Google granny stripe afghan, you can find photos of beautiful, color-coordinated crocheted afghans, many in rainbow hues, and some with elaborate borders.  And then there's this:

What I call my crazy granny stashghan.  I admit, calling it "crazy granny" is a little bit politically incorrect.  After all, most grandmothers are not crazy.  My own grandmothers were both hardworking women.  

My paternal grandmother married a Pennsylvania coal miner and raised ten children.  They never had much money, and she never had much free time until she was older.  She was a talented lady though.  She designed and cut her own patterns and sewed clothes for her kids.  She could draw and paint; I'm told she drew beautiful horses. When she was older, she loved Avon and always colored her hair and painted her nails.

My maternal grandmother married a bit later in life.  She married a widower with six children, one of whom wasn't quite two yet, I believe.  She then had two children of her own.  She was a farm wife who cooked three hearty meals a day, every day because farm work was hard work with a mule to plow with and tobacco worms to pick off the plants by hand.  She killed the chickens herself, churned the butter, and made quilts out of flour sacks.  My father, her son-in-law, said she made the best biscuits he ever tasted.  In later years, she lived with her oldest daughter, my aunt, and was the quietest, calmest person I have ever known.

I look back now and wish I'd taken more time to talk to my grandmothers, to hear the stories of their lives.  There are so many things I'll never know.

Perfect for lounging on the hammock.

This is the second granny stripe afghan I have made, both using up excess, leftover yarn from my yarn stash.  Honest, the only yarn I bought was some extra pink and teal to finish the border.  This crazy afghan is a mix of acrylic, wool, and even some cotton.  I love making these because they are so easy to do.  The only pain is weaving in all the ends.