Monday, April 27, 2009

Another rainy day . . .

. . . in central Illinois. Despite the clouds and cool breeze, my visitor Heather (jewelry designer extraordinaire) and I decided on a walk to the Riverfront district for lunch. Peanut and Kona were sad to see us leave even though we left the TV on the Animal Planet channel for their entertainment. Along the way we noticed this very cool train painting on what is left of an old bridge support. You can see another support behind it across the parking lot and the replacement bridge in the distance.

Even having lived here for over six months this is the first I've noticed the painting or this micro-brewery. Rest assured we'll be sampling their wares soon.

We passed Kelleher's, a good old Irish bar and epicenter of the evening celebration of St. Patrick's day in these parts.

We decided on lunch at the Water Street Cafe, a quaint corner bistro with an above average wine list.

Lovely wines aside, we chose Lambic, a most refreshing raspberry-flavored beverage of Belgian origin. And a grilled turkey and avocado sandwich. And a chicken pesto wrap. And homemade hummus. Yummy!

During lunch the rain was POURING down. We waited it out and then stopped at the HUGE riverfront antique shop where we spent at least two hours trolling through treasures; linens, jewelery, pottery, toys, photos and on and on . . .

As we left the antique market a light sprinkle began to fall. As it started to rain a bit harder we very conveniently found ourselves outside Eamon Patrick's Public House, another fine Irish bar. If you saw my post from St. Patrick's Day you will know this is a very Irish town.

Here are our Guinness and Shock Top refreshments; and IMHO Shock Top, similar to Blue Moon, is much tastier. And the bartender wasn't bad either! We've decided a return visit is in order for their Irish Sunday Brunch:
As the rain let up we set off for the final leg of our walk home. Here are my treasures from the antique market; a Westinghouse refrigerator leftovers dish by Hall China Co. and vintage photos of a young girl and an older woman. Instant ancestors!

Last, steamy bowls of homemade chicken and dumpling soup with brownies for dessert. What will we do tomorrow?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

You are my sunshine . . .

Happy Birthday, Sunshine! As I was preparing for this special birthday post, searching for photos of my lovely daughter Denise, I was stunned to find that this is just about the only photo I could find of her without her brother.This is the case partially because I don't have my full collection of photos here with me in Illinois. But, upon reflection, I realize it is because Denise is the caretaker. The photo above is classic Denise, behind the scenes, not wanting any undue attention. That photo was taken, by the way, at the Brainerd, MN raceway where she went to support her little brother in his motorcycle racing endeavors.

It isn't only Tom she takes care of. She was the only one there for me at my worst time ever. Stoic, strong, doing what she had to do. Here are beautiful flowers she planted to decorate her dad's deck after she gently(?) pushed him to finish building it. And, yes, she does know her way around tools and pitched in for the construction.
As you can see, the caretaking started at an early age. Despite some bloodletting between the two during adolescence, I don't know of any brother and sister who are closer. Sometimes I call them Bessie and Phil -- referring to their dad's aunt and uncle who were each other's sole companions for life.

She reminds me alot of her grandma, Genevieve. And that's a wonderful thing.

Denise is strong-willed, sometimes stubborn. She chooses her friends and activities without influence from anyone. The only woman in a sport bike club? You bet.

She is a deeply caring human. And the smartest person I know. And I'm so lucky that she is still "my sunshine." Happy Birthday, Baby!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Starting from less than scratch . . .

. . . can be a daunting task. This is the view from the back porch of our rental home in Illinois. The parking lot behind us belongs to OSF St. Francis Hospital. I've been itching to clean up the yard since we moved here last October but so far have only raked piles and piles of dead leaves and cleaned up some of the fallen branches from an ice storm. The next photo is a composite view of the side yard which is an empty lot between our house and the beautiful, original Craftsman home next door.
This is not a before photo, mind you, as I've already spent several hours working on the clean-up. We are told this is a neighborhood in transition. Additionally, since this is a rental property, the landlord provides a minimum of services which don't include cleaning up the landscape. This is likely why there is so much CRAP lying around. This view of one corner of the parking lot behind us shows the disgraceful condition the hospital has allowed to exist on one of their many properties. I hope they take better care of their patients!
Here's a closer view of some of what I've been cleaning up. On the positive side the soil seems to be good after years of living under piles of decaying leaves and wood and non-decaying trash. I've seen some fat, happy worms today and a couple of snails. I'm hoping whatever we plant will flourish. Another positive note -- there is a well established ground cover next to the fence. Maybe the ubiquitous pachysandra?
Check out the pile of branches that we and our Craftsman neighbors have accumulated. It's hard to see in the photo actually how large of a pile it is. It awaits pick-up by the landlord's posse. In the meantime, I'm thinking it wouldn't be so bad if a passing smoker would toss a live butt in there (cigarette butt, that is). In the foreground you can see what we think is a leftover tree stump and other dead foliage that now houses a rather irritating bunny who enjoys teasing our dog and making her bark. We hope to clean up this area as well.

Bottom line for this week is I've cleared up enough space to make my very first teepee and I've planted green beans and moonflowers which I hope will eventually provide a lovely display of flowers and the occasional dish of yummy vegetables. We have plans for tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini as well.

And there can never be enough flowers!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We're famous!

Well not exactly. Here's an article about our rental home that appeared in the local newspaper a couple of weeks ago: Question: If home is where the heart is and one has multiple homes then where is the heart?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kay's Grow House

During my spring break absence, the spousal unit was appointed to care for both the wildlife and crops I left behind in Illinois. I'm happy to say Peanut is as good as can be expected for a dog who has gained almost 20% of her entire body weight in the past several months. She misses those Florida bike path walks! Spring is coming, though, even to Illinois I'm sure, and we will be walking outdoors again soon. And enjoying the future fruits and flowers of our seedling crop.

I hit Walmart bright and early yesterday morning for some inexpensive plastic shelves and a fluorescent shop light. Here's my new construction:
We've got some fine moon flower and morning glory plants along with some green beans. The lavender and basil aren't far behind. Also picked up some of my most favorite flowering bulbs, the beautiful Hyacinth, on clearance. Here are two of them, yet to bloom. Is there a more spectacular fragrance on earth?

Monday, April 13, 2009

"Home is the place . . .

. . . where when you go there, they have to take you in." That's one of my favorite quotes. The spring break trip to Florida was my first time back to our beautiful home in Tampa since we moved to central Illinois last October 1st. The visit was bittersweet since, in all probability, we will end up selling it in the next year or so. Greatful as I am to have lived in such luxury, I am also very greatful for our rented home in Illinois. It is the OLD home with character that I've always wanted. Where will we end up? It is written somewhere in the universe but not yet known to me.

I've said there is nothing I've missed from the Florida house in these many months other than the recliner and the rest of my stained glass. Still, I allowed myself one large carton of items to ship back to Illinois. Mainly I needed my summer clothes, shorts and such, since I didn't bring them at the time of the move.

Maybe there is some insight into my personality here. Maybe it's just stuff. What did I send myself? Summer clothes, yes. But also a few special pieces of stained glass, candles, yummy tea. A bottle of glass etching solution, my glass circle cutter, my soldering pan and charcoal. And the upholstery attachment for the vacuum?
Books. A candle topper. My souvenir "Wolves" video from the Tampa zoo. Not the lovely Navajo vessel -- that has been here since I received it as a gift from Tracy and Kevin a few months ago.

A very small portion of the fabric stash from my sewing room:
And for when all is said and done, two treasured tea cups from my collection.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Another reason why . . .

. . . this is a GOOD Friday is because today we celebrate the birth of my awesome and fabulous "boy," Thomas. So much has transpired between here:
And here:
So many wonderful memories of my boy . . .
. . . but best of all is He Love His Momma!
Happy Birthday, Tom, and MANY, MANY more. You're the best!

Good Friday . . .

. . . otherwise known as "Can we go to Target?" Day. My friends Blake and Taylor never tire of scouring the toy aisles for Legos andhave quite a collection between them. I promised to publish photos from one of their epic battles and here they are:

May The Force be with you!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Back Home Again . . .

. . . In Indiana, and it seems like I can see the flickering candlelight, still shining bright, through the Sycamores for me." Yes, it's true, the long-term memory lingers after the short-term (like remembering to bring the camera!) begins to disappear. As the limo delivered us back to Blake and Taylor's home the State Song of Indiana began to play in my head. I think it was actually something we were required to perform at 8th grade graduation. Surprised that Indiana was already a state back then?

I also need to mention here that my friends performed for me a song they have been practicing at their school choir, something like "Nifty Fifty," a song about -- you guessed it -- the fifty states. There was a point where I stopped them, though, and said "Wait! Did you just say New Hampster?" Another special, long-term memory for me for sure!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A day fit for the zoo . . .

. . . so that's where Blake, Taylor and I went! To Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, that is, once again voted the BEST ZOO IN THE U.S. by Parent's Magazine. Once a blonde, always a blonde, I always say -- and forgot to bring the camera! Duh!

The weather was beautiful and so were all the animals. Here are a couple of phone photos of the mom and baby manatees enjoying lunch.

After a tour of the entire zoo, navigated as always by Blake, we stopped off at the gift shop. In true manly form, Blake chose to wait outside while Taylor and I shopped for souvenirs. Dinner today was at Red Lobster at Taylor's request where we loaded up on Cheddar Bay biscuits, among other delicacies.

At home once again, my friends opted for more pool time since it was their last day in Florida. Unbelievable! The water was 70 degrees (my personal minimum is 83!) and the air temperature was 67 and Blake and Taylor spent HOURS enjoying each other's company. We have to admit, though, that a good part of the time was spent in the 100 degree hot tub.

Last but by far not least, my good friend Coyote came for a visit with wine and sushi and we spent lots of time catching up, crying and laughing. What an outstanding finale to a great spring break adventure!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Run for your lives!

Here comes Ginormica!

At least that's what I feel like after a steady diet of donuts, pizza and ice cream. But, what the heck, it IS spring break after all and I want my friends to have what they like. Exclusively. Just for a little while. Since today's temperatures are not expected to get out of the 60s it seemed like the perfect day for a movie. I love the theaters at Citrus Park Mall in Tampa -- the matinees are mostly unattended so there's plenty of room to relax and enjoy and that's just what we did. Monsters VS Aliens - I highly recommend it.

Following a quick dinner of chicken fingers (did you know they have fingers?) and mac and cheese at Miller's Tampa Ale House we indulged in their premier dessert, Captain Jack's Buried Treasure. It is a huge hunk of cake made of ice cream, crushed Heath bars and chocolate fudge topped with whipped cream. Afterward, we returned home for a visit from our wonderful Florida friends, Andrew, Carrie and Caden. They REALLY DO grow like weeds, don't they? Not Carrie and Andrew; Caden recently celebrated his first birthday. So GOOD to see them, I really appreciated the visit!

I hope Mom and Dad stopped off on the way home to buy the big guy his own Nintendo DS!

Monday, April 6, 2009

It's a rainy day . . .

. . . but we're still managing to have some fun here in Florida on our Spring Break. Although clouds totally obscured the sun we took advantage of the still-warm weather and had some pool time. As it started to rain we climbed into the hot tub and held an inflated raft over our heads. Good thing, because it started to POUR! After the rain subsided we found a different way to amuse ourselves.

Here's a cute little marshmallow chick about to meet a strange fate. (Thanks to Denise and Friends for leaving us Peeps to play with!) First we place each Peep on its own plate. Then we open unwrap a piece of Dove chocolate. Next the poor little victim goes into the microwave.

In less than a minute the Peep has easily tripled in size!

We remove the hot marshmallow from the microwave. It no longer resembles any kind of chick. We place our Dove chocolate in the center and fold the hot, sticky marshmallow around it and . . .
. . . a new taste treat is born.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

And . . .

. . . we're off! Upon arrival at the Indianapolis airport we realized it was time for our afternoon snack of cheese popcorn and caramel corn. It wasn't long after we settled in at the gate that it was time to board the Boeing 717.
Taylor was on the aisle,
Blake was on the window,

and I was the monkey in the middle. After a forty-five minute delay catching our connection in Atlanta we were once again airborne for the final leg of our trip to Tampa, Florida. It was dark by the time we got our rental car. We headed for the grocery store to pick up a few necessities (donuts) and went "home" to put our dinner pizza in the oven.

After a good night's sleep the daylight showed the pool in good order and the temperature was moving into the 80s. The first order of the day was my removal of a baby snake from the pool amidst much screaming by Taylor. After that, we spent most of the day in the pool but found time for experiencing the local wildlife.

We took a walk to the pond at the entrance gate and were pleased to see a gator enjoying the late afternoon sun. Unfortunately we didn't think to carry our cameras. Fortune smiled on us later, though, when the neighbors pointed out a gator in the pond behind our house. This time Taylor and I were ready with our cameras.

What a cute little fella!