Monday, December 28, 2009

Uh Oh No Power!

Our power went out during a storm a few weeks ago, and we were left in the cold and dark. WE Energies couldn't get us back online until the next day, so we had to make the best of it. At least it wasn't bitter cold yet--just a semi-cold November night.
We lit all the candles we could find, and pulled out all the flashlights as well. A fire was lit in the fireplace and I settled on the couch and read my book by candlelight. We were able to boil water for tea and make soup, as we do have a gas stove (thanks goodness!) so we had a little picnic in front of the fire.
By the morning our power was back on, but I enjoyed the evening in the dark.
I took a couple of pics just as dusk was settling.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Goodbye to the old ash tree

A few weeks ago (when it was still warm out!) we asked my nephew, Matthew, who is a very talented and able arborist, cut down the old ash tree in our front yard. It was kind of old and scraggly looking, and was just in a bad place.

So--he came over one Sunday afternoon with his chainsaw and harness and ropes and took her down.

It amazed me how quickly and expertly he got the ropes into the tree and pulled himself up much like a mountain climber. Then, while at the top of the tree, he had his pruners, saw and even the chainsaw hanging from his belt by ropes! He deftly used one tool or the other, all the while moving from branch to branch like a monkey!
He did a great job, and we rewarded him with a great steak dinner on the grill (and some cash!). The best thing is, our lawn and my sewing room both get a little more sun.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


We have an apple tree in our backyard, and it surprised us this year by producing...apples!

Last spring, we noticed the beautiful blossoms on this tree, and once they faded, the tree was just...there. In the corner of the yard.
This year, the blossoms came and went as they did last year, and we thought nothing more of the tree until Tom starting getting is head bonked by low-hanging fruit while mowing the lawn. So yesterday was harvest day. Tom grabbed a long pruner thingy, and he cut down the apples while I gathered them in a basket.
Georgie helped.
We got this basketful--and the tree still has ten times this many. The apples are quite tart and crisp--perfect for cooking and baking. I used a fraction of these to make a gorgeous apple pie today--I should have taken a pic it was so perfect looking! And it was delicious!
So--if any of you out there have a bushel basket and love to make apple pie, come on over!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nothing New

Well let's see. What has happened since my last post?
I don't remember.
My entire being has been caught up with doing a quilt for a group show that I just finished yesterday. So I've been mostly posting on my other blog. In my non-art life, things are fairly quiet. Let's see if I can come up with anything exciting.

--The kitchen reno continues. Tom has built a couple of cabinets to add to those that are already in there. They look great! We've picked out tiles for our back splash, and have hired a friend to paint all the kitchen walls.
--Juta and I are getting along. She has become more comfortable living here, and no longer acts like a guest. She'll actually go to the fridge and get herself something to eat instead of waiting for me to ask her or make something for her. On one hand, that's good. On the other hand, she ate my leftover noodles and shrimp the other day. I was looking forward to having them for lunch yesterday. Oh well.
--Georgie continues to chew my sandals. He ripped up my good Tevas that other day. Sigh... I ordered another pair to the tune of $48!!! That makes NINE pairs of shoes/sandals of mine he's ruined in the last four months. He's also chewed up two pairs of Juta's and one of Tom's. He's turning out to be an expensive dog.
--Since we've been so busy with the kitchen and quilting, our garden has been totally ignored. I'm lucky it rains every once in a while or everything would be crispy! The flowers are blooming very well, as are the weeds! We have bees in the gutters and chipmunks living under the stoops. But Tom pulls zucchinis and tomatoes out of his veggie garden, and our apple tree has produced a bumper crop this year. I'll be making apple pie soon...
--My phone crapped out the other day and after a few days of farting around with AT&T, I now have a brand new one!
--I am looking forward to a short vacation, just me and Tommy. We're going up north for about five days of sitting still. Ahhhhhh....take me away...(of course, Tom will have his laptop and I will have my handwork. We never really sit still...)

So see? Nothing much new. Just regular life stuff. But that's good. Life is made fun and interesting by enjoying all the minutiae of the day-to-day. It is then we feel alive and connected and relevant.

For interest, I'll post a random picture. This is Pig at the Space Needle during my first trip to Seattle. He loves sightseeing.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Blooming things and Iowa

Things are settling down around here. Tommy, Juta and I have developed our daily routines. The critters are all getting along. It's all good.
So about a week ago, I took a little quilt-shop-hop trip into Iowa with my friend Jeanne. I drove to her house in Barneveld last Wednesday evening, stayed over night (where a gang of cows gathered outside my window very early in the morning--something that rarely happens in the Milwaukee suburbs...), and we took off in Jeanne's car Thursday morning. We stopped at a few places around SW Wisconsin, then drove to Cedar Rapids to shop at The Pine Needles (actually in Marion, IA).
We continued on to Kalona where we stayed at the Pull-r Inn. No, I am not kidding--that's the name of the motel. It was very nice. We found another little quilt shop "downtown", then went to Washington, IA to have a really good Mexican dinner in an old house. The next day, we planned to drive up to Amana, but not before one of Jeanne's co-workers, Firman, who lives in the area, took us for a ride in his dad's Amish buggy. Firman and his dad were very gracious--I even got a picture of them. The countryside around there is just like a picture book--green cornfields dotted with cute white four-square houses with tin roofs and red barns surrounded by 200 year old oak trees. Beautiful!
We poked around the town of Amana for a bit, and, of course, hit Heritage Designs, a quilt shop housed in a 150 year old barn. It is a gorgeous store, and I did a bit of damage to my pocketbook.
On the way home, we made a stop in Iowa City again, then drove back to Wisconsin. Before we got back to Jeanne's house, she took me on a little tour of the farm that used to belong to her mother's family. The homestead it was actually nestled in a hill overlooking a pretty valley near Fennimore. It was beautiful, and I took a pic of Jeanne's Little Valley. It was a fun couple of days, and now that the vessel is filled with lots of inspiration, I can back to my quilt projects with renewed enthusiasm.
I've also been watching lots of things bloom in my garden these days. The big news is the hydrangeas are here...and they are blue! Last fall I sprinkled some special fertilizer on the bushes to change the pH of the soil. That's what makes the blooms blue! I was sceptical, but it worked! I have one bush full of big blue flowers. The other one has pink blooms, and together they are beautiful!
The other big garden news is my clematis came back! It is growing in a flower bed that Tom cleared at the beginning of summer in order to kill the weeds. I thought they were lost, but they popped up, and now are climbing the garage with strength and vigor!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

For now, It's all about Juta

My mother-in-law, Juta, has finally moved into our house. We moved her stuff here in May, but she's been in the hospital, then in rehab, since then. Tom brought her home about two weeks ago. It's been interesting having her here. Since Tom works M-F all day, and I don't, I am the nursemaid.
I really don't mind. Honest. I want her to be comfortable. And I want her to consider this her home now, but that will take time.
I, also, am adjusting. I have more chores to do, but that's not a big deal. What's harder for me is getting used to not being alone at home most of the day. I love my alone-time! So, once Juta is settled for the day and doesn't need anything for a while, I spend much more time in my sewing room. Which is good, actually, as I'm getting some projects finished!

So, we've been getting to know each other more. I think Juta is funny about some things. She is reticent about asking for things, but will not get anything herself, because she feels as though she is a guest here, and guests don't just poke around the kitchen.
We watch some TV together, and she always has a comment about how people act. "Why do people have to wave and yell like that?" she asks while we watch the fans huddle around the barricades outside the "Today Show" studio. "Why do the kids have to run around like that?" she asks while we watch the scene in "Marley and Me" where the family moves up north and the children, who have grown up in Florida, gleefully burst out of the house and into their first snowfall.
I guess in Juta's universe, everyone is dignified, children are constantly restrained and no one acts improperly. Otherwise, "you make a fool of yourself!" (Emphasizing the "self" with a commanding and dismissive head-nod). It's a brave new world for her. It just makes me chuckle...

One thing that is driving me nuts is what to do with all her stuff? Our garage is full of it. We had planned a garage sale, but that's been postponed a number of times for various reasons. The main one being we really just don't want to deal with the sorting and the tossing. But--it'll get done and we'll have our garage back, finally.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Finished Floor and Tummy Troubles

Yay..our floor is finished! We worked on it again Sunday, and even though I was relegated to sitting in my chair on an ice pack, Tom was able to finish the project.
So here are some pictures looking toward the back door and towards the den. I LOVE IT!!!
Unfortunately, Beau has a bad tummy again today, so I'm staying home with him. He needs to go out about once an hour. Poor doggie. I have a pic of him heading for the door. And Georgie, too, sitting on our new birch floor. He blends right in--I have to watch so I don't trip over him!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New Floor!

Tommy and I started on the new floor today. We went to Lowes and bought a miter saw (which it was my job to cut the boards--SO FUN!) and rented a floor board nailer and we got home and got started.

So--there are pictures of the floor (and cabinet door) before we started; Tommy removing baseboards, me sweeping to lay down the underlayment; installing the first row (I used a DRILL!); the first row finished and the floor at the end of today.

Oh--and Georgie would not walk on the new floor at first. He ran back and forth, almost as thought he was going to jump into into a lake. Too funny. But Beau did, and so Georgie finally did, too. So I took his picture. Tomorrow we begin again.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mother-in-Law Update

Tom and I went to visit his mom at the rehab center today. And we took Beau the Dog--she liked that.
I can tell she's getting much better, since she asked about how all of our pets were before she wanted to know how I was doing. This always makes me chuckle.
But--she is getting stronger. She has PT each day, and is now able to walk with her walker a little. Last week, she was barely able to get out of her chair, so it's progress. Here's a picture from today. Maybe in another few weeks, she'll be home.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thus begins the kitchen nightmare

Well, this weekend we plunged headlong into remodeling/rehabbing/re-going crazy. We were planning to replace the floor...eventually, but the dogs had other plans. Each time they were left alone in the house, Beau and Georgie would claw at and chew the vinyl flooring. It started at the door, and they made it almost to the fridge on the other side of the room.
The floor looked awful and we were very embarrassed every time anyone came over, so...we started ripping out the floor in earnest.
Under the vinyl was a plywood subfloor. Tom ripped up the wood, and under that we found...tiles. Tiles laid in the 50s, judging by the pinkish color and sparkles in them. Tiles with thousands of staples in them...from the wood atop it.
And all those staples had to come out.
And once we pulled the staples out, a task that turned into an ordeal lasting almost the entire afternoon, the 50s tiles came up easily. Revealing more tiles. Tiles from the 30s, I'm guessing, from "that green" color in them.
You quilters know what green I'm talking about...:) They are covered with the discolored glue, but I spotted that green.

Anyway, under those tiles is the original wood sub-floor, so we're
just going to leave those tiles alone, and install a new wood floor on top of them.

Just Tom and me.
Oh my aching back...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Georgie meets Mickey!

When we moved Juta's belongings to our house, her cat, Mickey, came along. Since then, he's been hiding in the basement. We put his litter box down there, along with his bowls (so the dogs don't eat his food!) and he's been doing fine.
Last night while we were in the living room relaxing, he decided to make an appearance. He came up the stairs, walked into the room, and promptly jumped up on Tom's lap! Just like that! Beau has met Mickey a number of times, but Georgie has not. He was very surprised and interested to have this new critter in his house. Of course, Georgie immediately wanted to play! He got in his play posture, barked a little and ran around the room. Mickey wasn't having any of that, but at least he didn't run off.
So--they finally met. Pretty soon they will be best buds, I'm sure.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fleas and Birthdays

This last weekend was busy, busy, busy!
Saturday I got together with my BFF Jeanne ( and we went to the weekly flea market in Princeton, WI. It was fun to spend a whole day together. We met in Lodi, then drove together. The market was fun! I didn't buy anything too exciting, just a cute little hand-painted plate (left) and some spice mixes. Jeanne bought some neat things, too. I can't mention all of them, as one is a surprise for one of her family members who may just be reading this (I doubt it, but ya never know). We also managed to hit a couple of browsing shops, and two quilt shops on the way back to Lodi. The weather was wonderful, and it was a great day!

Sunday Tom and I went for a short bike ride. Boy am I out of shape! We rode around the neighborhood, which I discovered is quite hilly. Ugh. But--I made it--and I only had to stop once on the long slow hill on eastbound Loomis Rd. south of Grange. I haven't ridden in over two years, thanks to my bad back. So this was exciting!
After that we had breakfast out in the yard--Tom made delicious pancakes.

Then we got all cleaned up and drove down to Evanston, IL, to help celebrate the birthday of one of our dear friends, Mike, along with his wife, Mari-ann and another friend, George. We all met at Mike and Mari-ann's house and took a limo ride downtown to have dinner at Trader Vic's, an old school Chicago restaurant. The ride was very fun, the food and drinks were fab, and the company was top-notch. (The birthday boy is on the right.)

I even survived the two tiki cocktails I had! And this pair of Tiki salt-n-peppers found their way into my purse! They must have a mind of their own!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's been over a week since Juta went into the hospital, and there is not much improvement. Her pain is better, but she still takes lots of drugs. Other things have developed as well, as is what happens when a 90-year-old lays around for a week without moving. She's become weak and dehydrated, as she just hasn't eaten much since last week, even with Tom coaxing her. So now there's an IV to get her re-hydrated. Once Juta is stable, she can move to the rehab center and get some strength back. It'll be a struggle, since sometimes she seems to just give up. Tom and I are really hoping for a good outcome. It's so hard to see her so miserable.

I've actually begun to pray. I haven't done that since my own mother was ill. I'm praying for some kind of relief for Juta; either recovery, or passing to the next (better) world. I hope that's ok with her...

I've posted some pictures of Juta's house and yard in Morton Grove. I hope it's things like these that she's thinking about as she lays in her bed, not the pain she has right now.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Here and gone!

Yesterday, my mother-in-law, Juta, moved into our house. Tom and I and some friends rented a truck and moved most of her stuff from her apartment to here. She is 90 years old, and has been having trouble taking care of herself. Her room is all set up, save for pictures on the wall. Her personal care items are in the bathroom. Mickey, her cat, is hiding in the basement. We thought all was well.

It turns out that the fall she took in her apartment yesterday morning was worse than we all thought. She tripped on something while shuffling to the bathroom, but said she was ok, so we thought nothing of it. Until later in the day when her pain was so great she couldn't get out of her chair, we decided to take her to the ER--she could have broken a bone or something. But, Tom couldn't get her up, so we called the paramedics. There were flashing lights and sirens and everything. The neighbors were very interested. The EMTs were very nice, and took her to the hospital right away. She's still there, and will be for several more days until she is able to get up and move around on her own.
Then she finally be able to come...home!

This is Juta on her 90th birthday this last February. A pretty typical look for her. She's a character...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Highs and Lows

Sunday evening, I returned a call to my old friend Sylvia. (That's her on the right. I'm on the left...can you tell?) She and I grew up together in Milwaukee, our moms were good friends, we went to Esto camp together, and got married the same year, a week apart. She then moved to California, and I haven't seen her since. She was in town to visit her now 90 year old mother, and she wanted to get together. She and her husband, Hank, came over for some wine, some conversation, and some dinner, expertly made by Tom. It was really nice to see her again, as she has had some serious health problems in the past. She is also an artist, a painter, so we talked art and fear and acknowledgment. It was a great evening.

Last night Erika played clarinet in the Wauwatosa Community Band concert. Tom and I were there, along with Brian, Erika's husband, and David and Martha, Erika's dad and step-mom. It was just like going to all those school programs when the kids were little. The band is good, and, of course, Erika is the BEST one! ;) It was a fun evening.

SInce I just filled the bird feeders, and added suet and oranges, I check it out each morning. Today I saw Baltimore orioles, blue jays, goldfinches, cardinals and a woodpecker at the feeder, along with a few squirrels, junkos and a chipmunk underneath looking for leftovers. It was a riot of fauna color in the rain. It was a fun morning.

And then, I got an email from a dear friend up north who had been having some minor health issues. Well, she was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). I cried as I read that she was told she'd be in a wheelchair within months. I really want to help her, or cheer her, or just yell at the gods for allowing such an unfair, tragic situation. But--I'll take my cue from her strength and her faith, and let her tell me what she needs, and when she needs it. Then I'll do what I can for her. It is not a good day.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day. My kids came through with phone calls and flowers. Julie called from Seattle to wish me a good day and chat a bit. I miss her more than usual today.
Then Erika came over with a beautiful card and bouquet of flowers, including just one carnation. She said this was for all those times that, as a kid, I had to pin carnations on all the moms that came to the International Institute for the Mother's Day program. The smell of carnations takes me right back to those days...I don't ever remember telling her that story, so it was a neat surprise!
We also took some time out and went for coffee. It was fun, as she aways makes me laugh.
I am a lucky mom to have such delightful daughters.

Of course, I've been thinking about my own mother, Taala Ostrovskis. She died in 1997 and I still miss her every day. For a few years after she passed away, my girls and I would take a few of her ashes and scatter them at some of her favorite places in town: the lakefront at Northpoint, the botanical gardens at Mitchell Park, the Washington Park lagoon. We did this on Mother's Day and her birthday in August. We haven't done this for a year or two, as mom wanted some of her ashes scattered on the old family cemetery plot on Saaremaa, in Estonia. So--I need to save some for whenever I get there.

I wish I had a picture of her in digital form, although I have hundreds of snapshots. I'll scan a few and post them soon. Happy Mother's Day, ema, where ever you are.

Friday, May 8, 2009

OMG--I've done it!

I actually ordered something from QVC! Shoes!! I have always resisted buying anything from home shopping TV, although I often order clothing from the internet. I don't know why the distinction--I guess I get the image of an old lady watching TV just for the company and calling to order something just to speak to someone.
Hopefully, I'll never be in that place. LOL. I just liked the shoes and they were cheap. So, there it is then.
I seem to have been sort of busy lately, although it feels like I haven't accomplished much of anything. A very frustrating place to be. Tom and I have had a lot to do so that his mom, Juta, can move into our home next week. He has been particularly stressed, since it falls on him to deal with her and her problems day to day. With all of this, we've also had extra expenses getting her room ready--new furniture, packing and moving, etc.
It certainly didn't help when Georgie decided to chew up my eyeglasses. I left them on the coffee table overnight and woke up to find the lenses chewed and the frames bent to bits. So--off to the optometrist for a new pair to the tune of almost $500. Believe me, I will be protective of them from now on.... can this sweet puppy be such a little siitaratas...?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Quiet weekend

Julie and Erika have gone up to Minneapolis for the weekend. Tom is in the garage working on cabinet doors for the kitchen. Juta (my MIL) is watching Animal Planet, her favorite channel. I was planning to get into the garden to pull dead stuff, but the weather is not cooperating. Its cold, rainy and generally crappy.
Even the dogs are depressed about the weather. They can't be outside very long, as they really don't like the rain, so they're just lazing around the house. Beau is on the couch and Georgy is sitting on the stairs. It took me a while to realize why he does that--he can see out the windows! Smart little puppy!

Even Fred and Barney, the parrots, are quiet today, thank goodness. Seems to be a perfect day to spend time in my workroom. Yay! And no guilt about not being outside. Great!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's all about Julie right now

Wow--I started this blog a few days ago, haven't even posted anything yet, and I have two followers already. I'm honored!
Anyway--It's all about Julie. She's home from Seattle for a short time, so it's been a whirlwind of shopping, dinners, etc. Sunday we met the immediate family for a dinner at Bucca di Beppo and had a really fun time. It was to celebrate Julie's graduation from the Seattle Institute of Art & Design with an AA degree in fashion marketing. Her second college dgree. Hopefully, the last. Unfortunately, just as she was finishing school, she got laid off from her job as the assistant manager at Ann Taylor in Bellevue, WA. So its job hunting time for Julie.

She'd love to work for the Target Corp., since they have fabulous ads and are doing well, but she'll be in Seattle for a while to get some experience.

During her stay here, she and her sister, Erika, will be spending some time up in Minneapolis. We'll also take a drive down to Michigan Ave in Chicago to check out the big city, have all the aunts over for a visit, and see the Titanic exhibit at the Miwlaukee Public Museum. Its never a dull moment when Julie's around.
It's been fun having her home. She's a confident, competent, stylish woman, but to me, she's still my little one, my Julikins.

I just had to add a pic of Erika, the big sister, and Julie at a wedding shower we all attended. I am so happy that my two girls are such good friends. Best friends!