Hang on to your hats...as much as I mean to keep this short and sweet, well, you know me after six years. If you don't, prepare for some reading, and welcome to a sweet remembrance of 2014 in my world.
What is really a big difference now in comparing today with a year ago, and I know it is true for many, is that the winter of 2013-14 was so incredibly cold and snowy. At this point in time, my area of Chicago has had less than an inch of snow, and last year we were at approximately 40+ inches. A whole different realm then; shoveling out everyday and dealing with frigid temps. Needless to say, we kept the home fires burning and my little Layla was close by.
Waves on Lake Michigan on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive, frozen in motion. Incredible. (Source unknown)
A trip up to the lake had us plodding along in knee deep snow, the bay hidden under ice and snow. I never thought we would see that arbor bloom with clematis again, but of course it did.
I make a lot of my own recipes and soup was a mainstay (if you know me, you know I love to experiment with soups and stews) during the early months of the year. For this post, I'm just going to give you links to the recipes. Most of them I never gave a name to. Ha! Shall we call this Creamy Vegetable Soup?
I spent some time trying to get the right feel for our master bedroom after having it painted a bluish gray. As fussy as I am, it took awhile of course, and I finally decided on this comforter from The Land Of Nod, pillowcases from West Elm, and the burlap pillow from Restoration Hardware. I LOVE to look online..so many choices and good deals.
I had these plate racks from One Kings Lane for awhile and they were originally bright red, yellow and blue...not my normal color choices but I just had a "feeling" about them. A light bulb moment came and some cans of spray paint, and I had them on the wall with some collected plates in no time at all. I love the feminine feel they give the room.
Finally, I made a small gallery wall with some of my own photographs. Sometimes I switch them out. It's so simple and inexpensive to have copies made online at your local Walgreens, CVS, etc.
Winter brings in the store bought flowers, but how sweet are they? Maybe even more so then the summer flowers we cut from our gardens...just an unexpected bright spot in our day!
I found a great recipe for a balsamic vinaigrette while fiddling in the kitchen (my fave pastime!) that I shared and still make. I use this on salads, in dishes as a marinade, and added to sauces for that little spike of flavor. In a Mason jar, mix:
1/4 c. Balsamic vinegar
2 t. brown sugar
1 T chopped garlic
1/2 t each salt and pepper
3/4 c olive oil
Shake well and keep refrigerated. As there are no preservatives, the mixture will solidify. Take it out of the fridge 15 minutes before using. Feel free to Pin!
These are delicious Red Velvet cookies made from a cake mix and even speedier dipped in an easy glaze. They were fun to make around Valentine's Day. Find them here.
February 3rd marks my birthday and this year I turned 54. We celebrated at Tavern In The Green In Evergreen Park, IL. Blurry picture but I sort of love the way I'm looking so sure and "Bring it on!" :)
Spring was in the air not much later and I started to crave colorful vegetables...red peppers and asparagus fit the bill. Go to this link to find this creamy recipe that I created using seasonal veggies and chicken. I really have to start naming these things! :)
Lest you think I forgot my fashionista side, I hit some unexpected sales. I scored these boots for $15,00 at Shoe Carnival. Whoa, horsie!
I may have overlooked mentioning that as of January I had been "eating clean" for over six months. Back in August of 2013 I cleared out the pantry and fridge and threw away everything and anything with preservatives or additives. And I really started to enjoy cooking from scratch again. It made a big difference in how I felt, but I wasn't losing the weight I wanted. In January I went full on with a low carb plan (which I had successfully done before) and it was a definite challenge as far as shopping and keeping the right foods stocked, a big factor in how well you will do, as well as keeping you creative in your cooking so you're not bored to tears! Anyway, this is just an example of the salads I played with and I usually had one 4 times a week. Never burn yourself out on salads...there are so many other ways to enjoy veggies and maybe some day I will devote a whole post to it. I did lose 26 pounds by June and have kept it off. I plan to get very strict with myself again starting tomorrow! More miles to go.
This is a picture of my living room after I took most of my Christmas decor down in early January. Boy, that was a big tree! I show you this even though we are in the "spring" portion of my post because it took awhile to get my living room made over the way I wanted after having it painted a nice creamy color. I know, I'm very slow (and indecisive).
I finally reached this point in March and I was absolutely happy and totally chuffed with what I had created. Okay, daughter Emily helped a lot! Major purchases were the coffee and end tables, a mix of glass and wood; as well as the cabinet on which the TV sits. The rest...Homegoods, Target maybe, and shopping the house. That's it. Oh, I lamented over the curtains for a looooong time and finally found these sheers with a twine~like textured vine at Pier 1. Finished! And wow, I was so happy and pleased!
How can I not include some tablescapes? Since I started blogging six years ago I've enjoyed doing them. I don't have a ton of dishes but I guess I do have a penchant for picking up salad/dessert dishes every once in awhile and they make for a lot of varied table settings. And, where I once made the tablescapes only to dismantle after my photos, now I do them when I actually have company, which I'm happy to say, is more often. Anyway, an early spring table.
My spring mantel. A banner I made with stamped letters on linen with a little bling at the bottom, hung with jazzy clothespins (you have to click to enlarge :). A lone bunny waits for Easter to arrive. I tried to force forsythia that spring and I failed. :(
And then a simple Easter tablescape. I actually doubled it after this picture as we had a lot of company for dinner...but this was the general idea. A mix of woven straw placemats with linen ones, alternating colors of salad bowls and plates, and as always, my mismatched silverplate. I thought the simple tulips were precious. If you want those babies to stand a bit taller in a wide mouth vase like this, just tuck some simple herbs or greenery in around the sides where they don't come up too high to take away from the beauty of the flowers. This will add a nice fresh fragrance as well.
While we waited for the weather to really warm up (and it took it's good sweet time), I busied myself with a few projects in the house. I surprised Abby with a mini~makeover of her room one weekend when she was away. A MAJOR cleaning and a quilt, pillows and some prints from Target was all that was needed to freshen up her room. She had painted the room a "Tiffany Box" blue the year before and I think I'll keep it.
I left most of the major organizing to her. She's now teaching high school English and has plans to get an apartment further north in the city this spring with her best friend. This will be a guest room I guess. I'll have to do something about all of this mismatched furniture and we will have to get a headboard for the bed among other things. She laughs, "You wait until I'm gone to do these things?!" Well, we know you're going to be back, darling!
Finally! Warmer weather, green grass and daffodils...oh joy! Milo and Layla started spending a good part of their days rolling in the grass and chasing birds and squirrels.
Spring also brought little Tulo into our lives, my son, Jeff's new puppy. Tulo is an English Cream variety of Golden Retriever. Most of you are well acquainted with him by now. Still cute, but 90 pounds heavier.
...and the recipes coming from my kitchen were more fresh and filled with color. This is Chicken and Pine Nuts over Spinach. It was delicious. Feel free to Pin, my recipes are not long nor involved.
At the end of May, The Husband and I took a wonderful 12 day trip. You can read about it by going back to May in my archives if you'd like. The Husband is a real Civil War buff and wanted to see some of the historical sights of the battles, mostly those that had taken place in Virginia. I was in charge of making a winding little map from Washington, D.C., where we flew in to, down through Virginia into North Carolina, where we ultimately flew home from Asheville. We visited/stayed in D.C., Lexington, Charlottesville, Richmond, Raleigh and Asheville. All at B&B's that I researched. My favorite part of the trip? The gorgeous Shenandoah Valley. We clocked over 1400 miles on our rental car and though I really don't have any patience for car travel, this was one of the best vacations we've ever had.
Eight months prior to this trip we had purchased a condo in Asheville, where we had vacationed before. Our love of the mountains, fresh air, mild temps and the whole vibrant Asheville vibe made the investment a perfect one. The condo is part of a Premier Hotel and is leased to tourists/vacationers, what have you. So this is our place and where we stay when we visit. It has a sort of rustic mountain style. We can't add or subtract from the decor, the units are available on a "lottery" type basis so they must all be generally the same.
I have no complaints...look at this kitchen! Everything is there;, dishes, glassware, pots and pans. The best thing is that we have housekeeping service every morning! :) And...a washer and dryer so that I can bring less clothes. Which I don't.
Back home, Chicago was saying hello to summer finally. Lunch on the sidewalk at Gino's East is a must in the warm weather.
There's something really special about taking everything outdoors. If you don't have a year round warm climate, you really appreciate warm sunny days!
Up at the lake in Michigan we had to work overtime to get the place ready for fun in the sun, something we normally do in May but had little time due to our trip. Emily played a big part in creating this gallery wall on the covered patio, this space had been bugging me for the longest time. Shopping the house, even the lakehouse can bring forth some surprises!
We had our fair share of company, maybe even more than usual and when we weren't, I spent many hours relaxing and reflecting here while looking out at the bay.
We love our walks along the old lake roads, our house is just around the bend here. The Husband used to take the kids and dogs into the woods for little "adventure" games. Eventually, the ground became quite swampy and the paths overgrown. I simply stay away for fear of poison ivy and coyotes! Lots of both.
And there was work at the lake; projects and dreams. I totally redid the garden area around our front porch and along the house. I was so proud to have accomplished this totally on my own, if only for the workout! lol! But in all honesty, I prepared the beds, made diagrams, chose the plants based on multiple factors, and one day The Husband walked out just as I was backing the truck loaded with plants and shrubs into the yard, a little Cub Cadet hat on my head. Smiles all around. I love to make him proud! :)
I had a few painting projects, one was our picnic table and another this old, 1980's maple table. I was never crazy about it but because it's round it fits really well in this corner sitting nook where we can read or chat and look out at the water. I'm happy with it. I love furniture painting up at the lake as I can do it outside and then just jump in the water to clean off! Not.
Finally, I pulled together the master bedroom with some simple bedding, curtains and artwork on the walls. I have some soft green and blues going on in here, the chair in the corner my inspiration.
I'm going to leave you here for now. It's New Years Eve! I truly hope I haven't dragged this on really long. I tried to highlight some of the bigger moments but I also wanted to keep with the vibe of my blog...the decorating, cooking, gardening, etc. As I sifted, or scrolled, through picture after picture, I could see that even these don't really tell the story, it was the pictures that I just couldn't squeeze in. The little moments; people pictures, funny dog antics, peaceful beach moments. Anyway...for me, this post will jog my memory quite well. For you, well I hope you are enjoying the ride, I appreciate all of you!
The Husband and I are having a very quiet night. I have cheese, crackers, fruit and some boiled shrimp to dip in cocktail or remoulade sauce. And a bottle of champagne, of course. And tomorrow I'm having a sort of "Open House" for the kids to stop by if they can. I'm making a big roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, asparagus with shaved Parmesan, Brussels sprouts in a warm reduced balsamic sauce, and the one dish I am really looking forward to, a Black Eyed Pea Risotto that I found on my friend Karen's blog, Back Road Journals. You know that these peas bring good luck, don't you?
Maybe I'm silly but I still love to find that perfect "word" for the coming year. I wish I could remember all the ones I've preciously had, even last years! Well, this is the word for 2015...GROW. And I'm not talking about my flowers. :)
Love to all of you and Happy New Year! I'll be back in a few days to wrap this review up.