A day like today makes me wonder what I did in my past life to deserve all this goodness.
As I type this post, I am sitting on my lovely back screened porch, overlooking a a really pretty yard with flowers blooming, birds singing and the sun shining. Loretta, the crazy whippet, is sitting at my feet, dozing. Life is good.
It's around 80 degrees and there isn't a cloud in the sky. I keep my bird feeders filled with seeds, so there are always birds hanging around. For the last ten minutes or so, I've been watching a chickadee scouting around for a good nesting spot. If she chooses something too accessible to Loretta and Scully, I will discourage her, but it's been great fun watching her check out her options.
The lawn guys were here the last several days doing our spring cleanup. We do our own weekly maintenance, but it is really nice to have them come out spring and fall to spread mulch, and rake leaves, aerate and fertilize. They are a great group of guys who work really hard and, frankly, make me feel ashamed at my laziness. They installed a field stone patio out back last week, and removed our old broken down front walk and replaced it with pavers, and they repaired our decrepit front stoop.
It all looks wonderful and I am just so house proud right now.
But, I am most pleased with the back yard. Back in Georgia, it was really hard to spend time outside during the middle of the afternoon. It was just too hot! Here, there is always a breeze and we have so many trees, it stays pretty cool even on the hottest days.
Tonight, I am roasting a chicken on our charcoal grill and I have made a beet salad and I have three ears of corn I plan to make into something delicious.
And to think, just a few months ago I was hating on this place. The winter really dragged me down, but days like today almost make the winters worth it.
I just spent a week with the original Tweedle, at her home in Florida. I left Chicagoland dreary and cold. But the week I was gone, it was lovely here. Meanwhile, in north Florida, it was hot and rainy, really humid. I just can't win!
But, upon my return to Chicagoland, I find the weather here just glorious. The hostas are popping up all over, there are buds on all the trees, and loads of plants and flowers shooting up everywhere.
We are getting a patio installed in our backyard and the front walk repaired and replaced. The patio is really important, because with all the rain we have had, the dogs just tracked mud into the house. With a patio, at least there is some barrier from the mud to the door and we can catch them and wipe their paws. Besides, it looks awesome! Once the grass starts to fill in around the edges, it will be complete.
I am building a rock garden at the edge of the patio, where my bottle tree lives. It will be nice drainage, and look good. I bought the plants yesterday and hope to get started on the work tomorrow. I love rock gardens, partly because they are no-maintenance and because, well, I just love rocks. For years, I collected interesting rocks whenever I went someplace new. I had a few I brought back from Asia and Europe and from all over the U.S. (Just smallish rocks, mind you, nothing too big for carrying on a plane.) But, I traveled a lot, and the collection got pretty big. And we move a lot (but hopefully not anymore!). This last move, I just decided to leave the lovely rocks in the garden in Georgia. Those rocks had lived in their original locales, and then in my gardens in Michigan, Atlanta, Seattle, and then Atlanta again. They needed a rest.
I have to admit, I was feeling kinda blue last month. It's been a pretty long winter in Chicagoland and I'm just not used to it yet. In early March, I went to Atlanta to visit friends and came home with the flu that evolved into a nasty cold. It's been a month, and I still have a slight cough.
But, in spite of the cold weather and crummy cold, there were several bright spots in my month.
A very dear friend in Alabama noticed the weather in Chicago and just decided I needed some Springtime and sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. (I just tossed them out -- they lasted three weeks!) It was unbelievably kind of her to think of me, and I am ever so grateful!
A few days after that was my birthday, and, gosh, if you need a reason to like Facebook, birthdays are it. (I sometimes really hate FB, but it is the easiest way to keep in touch with friends and family.) Every year, I get a burst of happiness from FB on my birthday, when friends from all parts of my life send me well wishes. Just hearing that "ping" all day from my phone helped make my day even better.
But, the best part of the month, the part that actually got me out of my doldrums and back into the land of the living, was the vacation my husband and I took the last week of March.
We have both travelled extensively for work, but have rarely travelled together. In fact, in our nearly three decades together, I can only think of four planned vacations.
We went to Napa Valley (pictured at left is a vineyard, but I can't remember which one. Above left is an old vineyard on the Hess property that belongs to Christian Brothers. We went to 15 or so over the course of the week, and grape vines were everywhere!).
We flew first class, stayed in a very nice hotel in Napa, ate incredible food and came home with four cases of wine, plus joined a couple wine clubs. We also went to the Lagunitas brewery and went to a cheese festival in Petaluma. We spent our last night in California in San Francisco, and had a lovely dinner in Chinatown (near the Fairmont hotel where we stayed).
I guess when we finally get around to a vacation, we do it right!
When we came home, most of the snow was gone and the neighbor kids were wearing shorts (though I think that was wishful thinking on their parts). The next day, it did snow here, but it didn't stick and now the sun is shining and when I went to Home Depot yesterday, I noticed they were getting all the garden stuff out. Hurray! Spring has finally sprung!
(The picture at left is from the Ladera Winery. It is lovely. The tree in the middle is really beautiful and I plan to include it in some Tweedle art soon.)
Chicagoland was hit with more snow this week. Which is no surprise, really, just annoying. Especially since I am sick as can be with my THIRD bout of illness this winter.
My mother (the original Tweedle), ever the optimist, warned me yesterday that my father had a lot of winter colds and flu, too, and that I should see a doctor to rule out emphysema. Never mind that my dad was a heavy smoker until his diagnosis in his fifties, and that, aside from a few in my college days, I have never been a smoker.
Last week, I went to Atlanta to visit some friends and go to a book signing for the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. I had SO much fun! Too much, really, given that I wore myself out and made myself susceptible to all the nasty germs on the plane ride home.
It started out with fatigue, progressed to body pains and sweats, headaches, joint aches, and coughing and sneezing. I am over the hump now, but my throat is on fire from all the coughing. Pity me.
My wonderful husband has had a companywide business meeting in Chicago all week, but has come home twice now to replenish my juice and cough medicine supplies. He's a good egg. It's just as well he's not here. I'd just infect him and we'd both be miserable.
I may use the picture of the bottle tree in my back yard in my Holiday cards next winter. All my Southern friends will think that white stuff is so pretty. I know, I know. Y'all have have had snow this winter, too. But, what you got is no comparison to having to plow a path in the backyard so your dogs can relieve themselves.
I live near the Chicago Botanic Garden, a stunning, otherworldly place. I visit, and take pictures, and dream while I am there. Everyone should go when they are in the area.
This is an Espalier Pear Tree from the Garden. The tree branches have been trained to grow in perfect lines, straight out on each side. These trees are usually grown against a brick wall, with brackets of some sort guiding the branches on where they should grow.
This mixed media textile piece is 48" x 30" and framed in black wood. I used all sorts of fabrics and materials, including faux suede, corduroy and cotton, as well as buttons, glass beads, and old Scrabble game tiles. I hand embroidered embellishments and the Tweedle signature.
I seriously need to get a better handle on taking pictures of my work. These pictures just do not do it justice. I guess doing real photography on my iPhone is a little much to ask.
I bought this lamp for ten dollars today at an estate sale in Winthrop Harbor, IL. Kind of an old-fashioned large lamp, with cut glass base and gold-colored metal bits.
It isn't really my style, but I thought it had potential. I took it home, cleaned it up, and covered the gold metal with a cool silver leaf paint that I bought at Michaels the other day for around six dollars.
I don't have just the right shade for it yet, but had an extra shade in my basement (pretty similar to the original, but clean and white, and a little nicer all around).
Just felt like posting the project today, so, here it is!
I have completed the first in my four-part series on the seasons at my home in Chicago. This is Autumn Tree, based on a sketch I made of a color-changing tree in my own back yard last fall.
This work is three feet by three feet, mounted on a stretched canvas. I used scraps of cotton, silk, wool and corduroy fabrics to create textures and colors on a base of wool fabric. I hand-embroidered embellishments to the leaves (and the Tweedle signature) and added buttons in the sky around the tree. The whole thing is bordered by an orange sari silk. I hope you like it!
With the holidays and all the tree skirts I made and the bathroom remodel, I haven't been working on my other projects like I should have been. So, finally, I got out the bits of fabric, buttons, and other bits and compared the lot to some sketches I have been making in my sketchbook.
To the left is my depiction of a tree I drew in the fall in my neighborhood. I have only just begun the work, so what you see is, essentially, a rough draft, but it pleases me to actually be able to report progress.
This is a giant piece, at three feet by three feet, and all the hand work will take some time to complete. Instead of framing it, I plan to mount it onto a stretched canvas that has been covered in a cloth, like a traditional painting. My husband thinks it looks Amish. Hmmpphhtt. (Okay, maybe I see his point.)
Now that I have completed the remodel of the half bath on our first floor, my husband is inspired... What next? he asks.
But, before I think of what is next, I want to glory in my first big completed project in this house.
When we bought the house, this particular bath was wallpapered in a pink stripe with blue and maroon flowers, and featured maroon fixtures to match the flower. The floor is a pink marble tile. We believe it must have been done in the 1980s. This bath is probably the only room that was significantly altered in the house since it was built.
We wanted to redo the bath in a way that fits with the rest of the house -- and might appear like it is original to the house.
So, I stripped the wallpaper and gave the walls a stucco treatment (The rest of the downstairs is stucco-like inside) and painted the walls the same color as the rest of the first floor. The ceiling in this bath is a dark-stained wood, so I wanted to make it as bright and clean-looking as possible, which is why the paint is off-white. The entire first floor has the dark ceilings and dark floors, and to paint the walls any other color would probably darken the house too much for my taste.
I pondered on the pink floor tile, but decided to keep it. I figured if I decided I hated it, we could change it later. Turns out, I like it with the new stuff. The pink is toned down and looks more neutral.
We replaced the fixtures with white ones that were based on designs from the era of the house (only the commode has a tiny tank, reflecting the need to conserve water these days!).
I added privacy glass to the window and removed the window treatment altogether -- for more natural light.
We replaced the light fixture with one we bought years ago and never installed -- it works perfectly here, and gives off much more light than the previous fixture did. We changed out the mirror, and, viola!, a new bath! (The handles that came in were wrong -- and the plumber is coming back with the correct chrome handles when they arrive.)
Behold, the fruits of my labor.
Estate sale find transformed.
I go to a lot of estate sales. I am looking for something cool to use as a bar cabinet for my living room, among other things. I shouldn't give away my secret, but there is a lot of good old unused fabric and sewing equipment at estate sales.
I recently scored two new old sewing machines. I intend to keep one and resell the other. Whichever one I like best for my purposes I will keep. My good friend Ginger told me about the old Singer 301s, and I was lucky enough to find one in good condition. But before I found that one, I found a lovely Pfaff 60 with a cabinet and loads of attachments. The Pfaff is more difficult to find parts for, I am finding, so it is likely to go. Or maybe I will keep both! Fickle me.
I have found a lot of old thread on wooden spools. The thread is in varying condition, all different colors, cotton, silk, even wool. And the spools themselves are super cool shapes and sizes. So I have been buying up all I see. One day, I will find a cool use for them. In the meantime, I found this keepsake lamp at Target where you can fill the base with whatever you like. Instant storage!