Monday, May 23, 2016

On Spring Break!

I'm on Spring Break enjoying a road trip out west with the hubby.  Be back June 1st with all new adventure stories to share!  And even though I won't be active on my blog, I will be posting daily pictures of our trip on Instagram.  Follow me HERE.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Pretty Little Church Garden and Snippets of My Own Garden

 If you read my fashion posts on Monday's and Friday's you would have seen snippets of this lovely church garden.  My husband and I went to Chicago for the weekend and discovered this sweet little garden behind an old church.

It is a peaceful little garden with stone paths and lots of benches.  Every church should have a garden like this.  What a wonderful place to mediate and pray.  Except, if I went to a church with a garden as lovely as this,  it would be difficult to drag myself inside for the service.

 I love how the blossoms from the flowering crabs littered the path, don't you?

The garden is a low-maintenance mix of flowering trees and shrubs with hardy perennials.

I adore Japanese Maples and wish they were hardy in my zone.

The author of this garden really worked hard to combine interest with flower, texture, and color.

I would love my own yard to look like this someday.  It's mostly a shade garden, as my yard is becoming since the trees are getting so mature.  I will look to this garden for inspiration as I renew and renovate my own garden.

I love this Solomon's Seal.  I think I tried it in my own garden once, but it didn't do well.

This path leads to the back of the garden, where there is a stone patio and benches.

These bright purple/pink azaleas look great with the chartreuse ground cover, the purple foliage of the Coral Bells,  and the Solomon's Seal in the background.

This beautiful white flowering crab apple was right behind the church building.  The contrast of the brick wall with the white blooms in front was breath-taking!

And now for Snippets of my own garden.  I don't have much in bloom right now.  The spring bulbs have all finished, but the ornamental onions are looking gorgeous.  My last crap apple tree is finishing showing off for the year, and the lilacs are in bloom.

These are my Ornamental Onions.  Are they gorgeous or what?  I LOVE this bulb/plant!  Because it's from the onion family, the critters won't go near it.  They get bigger and stronger every year.  I am thinking it's time to dig them up and divide them this year, because I have so many blooms!

The bumble bees love them too!  This little guy barely even noticed me taking his picture he was enjoying the flowers so much!

I have two Snowball Bushes in my yard.  I love this bush.  It's so hardy;  I can't believe how fast and big they grow.  And look at all these blooms!  My goodness, that's a lot of blossoms!

Here is a far away shot to give you an idea of the scale of this bush.  It's practically the size of a small tree!

This bush I have no idea what it is, but every single person that comes into my yard asks me.  It was only suppose to grow four feet tall and wide, but I think it's double that.  Other than the fact that it has thorny branches, it's a great bush that provides four seasons of interest.  In the spring it has yellow blossoms, in the summer it has gorgeous green foliage that turn red in the fall, and in the winter it is covered in berries.  It couldn't be a more perfect bush.

Here are the yellow flowers.  Right now, there are so many bees interested in this bush, I can't even get near it.  You can hear the buzzing many feet away.  The birds also love this bush for both protection and food.  They build nests deep inside, and they eat the berries in the winter.  Like I said...a perfect bush!  If you ever see this bush in a nursery, buy it, you won't regret it!

A lot of gardeners detest catmint because they think it's invasive.  It will reseed wherever it wants, but I don't find it invasive compared to other nuisance plants like Golden Rod or Tall Phlox.   I have it edges the steps that go down from my house and into my garden.

 This beautiful butterfly was loving my catmint too!  I'm so happy to see all the critters return in the spring.  I love to see my yard filled with Orioles, Hummingbirds, and Butterflies.

As I said earlier, my lilacs are in bloom.  I've got several bushes, but the common purple lilac is the one I have been able to photograph so far.  I fear I won't even get to the see the rest of my lilac in bloom, as I will be traveling when they open.

Me and my lilacs!

Of course, I had to bring a bouquet of these into my house to fill the air with their heavenly scent!

And here is the last crab apple tree to bloom for the year.  Oh, how I wish these beautiful trees would stay in bloom all summer long!

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

What I Ate This Week: Tomato-Basil Couscous Salad, Oatmeal Pancake, and Gyros!!!!

This week I made a yummy salad, a not-so-yummy fake pancake, and I went out to eat for Gyros!!!

First up, my yummy salad!  Most of my regular readers know I love Mediterranean dishes, so of course I loved this recipe!

"Tomato-Basil Couscous Salad"

This is such a delicious and healthy recipe!  I love the mix of flavors, it's so hard to believe that it actually good for you!

It's basically just couscous, chickpeas, and tomatoes served on a bed of lettuce.  I got my recipe out of the actual South Beach Diet book, but there are various versions of that recipe available HERE.  I looked at all the recipes, and I would eat any of them.  I especially love the idea of adding mozzarella cheese!

My next recipe is also from the South Beach Diet.  And to be honest, I really don't care for it, but it is edible.  It's suppose to be a non-gluten pancake.  It is made with oatmeal, egg whites,  and cottage cheese, and then I have sugar-free syrup and Smart Balance spread on it.   It's O.K., and it is low-carb, healthy, and full of protein.  It's something to eat if you have been on a low carb diet for awhile, and you are really craving something different...or sweet!

                                        Oatmeal Pancake

 But seriously, it doesn't taste that great.  Does anyone out there have a better gluten-free, high protein pancake recipe they are willing to share?  I'd love to hear from you.

I looked on the website, and one reader came up with another way to make these pancakes so that they are not so dense.  Maybe I will try making them her way next time.

If your interested in this recipe, you can find it HERE.

And finally, my favorite meal I ate on my weekend trip to Chicago with my husband:

                                                                A Gyro Platter!

We were driving through Milwaukee, Wisconsin on our way to Chicago right at lunch time, so of course we had to stop at our favorite restaurant "Gyro Palace" and have our favorite dish the "Gyro Platter".

The restaurant is just a hole in the wall, and the owners actually remind us of the characters on the Nazi Soup Kitchen episode of Seinfeld.   They are Greek Americans and serve real authentic Greek food, but they always seem kind of  annoyed that you are there.  It's actually quite comical.  There is no ambiance...just really good food.

Here's the outside of the restaurant.

Gorgeous isn't it?  The inside decor is even better.

By now your probably saying to yourself "This is her favorite restaurant in Milwaukee?".  Yep, this and an Italian place called Mamma Mia's where my husband and I had our first date.  You see, I have a lot of memories of this place.  We spent a lot of time here with our good friends Kirk and Shannon, back when we were young.  But we also really do love the food, you couldn't find a better gyro anywhere on this planet than here...that's why the owners can get away with being annoyed with you.  You don't need fancy decor or great service if you have great food.  And to be honest, those type of places always make me feel uncomfortable anyway.  I'll eat in this charming cafe over a fancy restaurant any day!

We always get the Gyro Platter and order two extra pitas.  It's around $12.00 and it comes with more meat than you possibly know what to do with and an entire bottle of the white sauce...whatever you call it...that goes on gyros.  We split the dish between the two of us, but it could also easily be split amongst three people, there is honestly so much food!

So what about you?  Do you like hidden gem diners like this, or is a five star restaurant more your cup of tea?  I'd love to hear from you!

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Friday, May 20, 2016

Dressing For Spring Even When The Weather Is Not Spring-Like

In Monday's Fashion Post I mentioned that my husband and I went to North Chicago to see my daughter and son perform a gig together.  While there we spent time in this beautiful little church garden.  It was so gorgeous, but COLD!!!!  Those Chicago winds stayed true to their reputation and cut through me like a knife.  

I already showed you the outfit I wore to their concert HERE,  this is the outfit I wore to spend some time with them in the morning before heading for the long car ride home.

Because it was so cold this day, I wore a thick white nautical sweater (it has a little anchor on the chest), a tank top under the sweater, a scarf with hummingbirds on it, and a white jean jacket.

I always like to be comfortable when spending long hours in a car, so tight blue jeans are always out of the question.  I like to wear loose fitting pants with elastic or drawstring waists.

These cobalt blue cargo pants I picked up at Express years ago.  They have both a zipper, button, and a drawstring waist.  They are a loose fit, and a cotton material.  They are very comfortable, but because of their extreme casual look, I only wear them at home or when traveling.

They have pocket button flaps on the derriere that I am always ironing to stay down.  Why do pant pockets always want to curl or flip up anyway?

My hot pink cross body bag that my daughter gave me for Mother's Days coordinated perfectly with the cobalt blue pants and white jean jacket.

It was sooooo cold taking these pictures.  My husband kept telling me, "You look cold, pretend your warm!"  Keeping my hands in my pockets for most of the photo shoot helped.  But I couldn't wait till we got a few descent pictures so I could run inside and get warm.  Ahh day warm, one day cold... it can drive a person batty!

 My Dr. Scholls shoes may look new, but they are several years old.  I don't know why, but I don't have the dirty sneaker problem many bloggers complain about.  But I also don't wear white sneakers to places where I know they will get dirty.

This outfit is a great example of dressing to look like spring, even when the weather is freezing.  All the colors are spring like, plus certain elements in the outfit also scream the hummingbird and sail boat anchor.

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Summary of My Last Three Days in Florida

For the past few months, I have been doing a weekly travel post about my last vacation in Florida during the month of February.  I was there two full weeks, so we did a lot!  But now I leave for a nine day road trip out west on Saturday and I will be closing my blog down during that time so I can just relax and enjoy the trip.   When I return in June, I'll have new adventures to share, but in the mean time, I wanted to wrap up my last three days in Florida.

By this point in my vacation, I think we saw just about everything within an hour or two drive from my daughter's home in Winter Park.  And to tell you the truth, I was getting exhausted from all the sight seeing.  So we decided to keep my last few days in Florida more low-key.

On the first low key day, we stayed in Winter Park.  We heard wonderful things about the Tiffany Glass museum and decided to check it out.  I love Tiffany Glass and own one large piece myself that I have displayed in my sun room window of my home.  So I was excited to see more beautiful pieces in this museum.

This is the outside of the museum.  It is located in downtown Winter Park, and costs $6.00 to enter.  Photographs are only allowed in the atrium of the museum;   you are not allowed to take pictures of the art work.  So I can't show you any pictures of the gorgeous Tiffany pieces, but you can check out the photographs on their website HERE.

The museum houses the world's most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany.  It is filled with the lamps that you and I are most familiar with, but also stained glass pieces, jewelry, pottery, and paintings.  There is also a gorgeous chapel that was reconstructed inside the museum that is not be missed.

The stained glass is beautifully lit with artificial lighting.  Seeing all this amazing glass artwork is a beautiful feast for the eyes.

The Daffodil Terrance is the only spot you are allowed to take pictures.  It is a glass enclosed gallery with a view of a garden courtyard.  There are eight eleven foot marble columns that are topped with bouquets of glass daffodils.

The terrace has a coffered ceiling composed of hundreds of stenciled wood elements and molded tiles in three bays.

The central bay features a skylight covered by six large panels of iridescent  glass panels in a pear  tree motif.

It only took a few hours to walk through this museum, so after wards we decided to venture outside and walk around downtown Winter Park a bit.  I had been there before during a previous visit, but it's so pretty, I was happy to go again.

This is a beautiful church right across the street from the museum.

Ashley needed some photographs for her new website and musical endeavor, so we also used this time for a photography shoot.

Winter Park is a photographers dream!  There are so many beautiful spots to take great pictures.

Ashley brought several changes of clothing with her to create many different looks.

The next day, I decided I wanted to do some shopping.  I know a lot of people don't like to shop when they travel, but I don't live in an area that has a lot of great stores that are available in other parts of the country, so I always do a lot of shopping when on vacation.  I do live less than two hours from the Mall of America, but we only go there about once a year.

I kept seeing a large outlet mall off the freeway near Disney World that I wanted to go to, but then we met a local at The Orlando Wetlands Festival who advised going to The Florida Mall instead.  So off we went!

I was glad she recommended this mall.  It was a very nice, large mall.  Of course, it was nothing like The Mall of America, but nothing is!  I thought it was interesting that they had a sushi bar right in the middle of the mall.

The food court had palm trees growing inside.

I bought a lot of cute clothes at this mall...most of which I haven't even shown you yet.  It was here that I found that cute midi skirt I wore for Easter.

We did stop in and check out this cute M&M shop though!  We didn't buy anything, as it's cheaper to buy M&M's at Walmart, but it was fun to look at.

My favorite part of this mall, and actually with almost everything in Florida...restaurants, bars, etc., is that it is open to the outside.  This was the view from the H&M store.  One door of the store opens to the interior of the mall, and a back door opens to this view.  The door was wide open, bringing the beautiful February weather right inside the store.  I have no idea how they prevent retail theft by doing that, but it sure was lovely.

My very last day in Florida was the most low-key of them all, as  I had to get up at three in the morning to catch my flight home.  I spent most of the day doing laundry and packing, although my daughter Ashley and I ran out to a couple of stores that were right across the street from where she lives.  I also forced myself to take a nap, because we wanted to see my son perform with his band that night.  They had a gig from 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m.  Since I normally go to bed at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m, I knew I'd have to take a nap if I was going to be able to stay awake for the event.

Jordan has had so many wonderful musical opportunities and experiences since moving to Florida.  He had his first audition the very first week he arrived and got into the band Cover Charge right away.  This is their band playing at one of their gigs.  Jordan is the drummer.

He then auditioned for another band and ended up not only playing for that band as well, but doing acoustic sets with the lead singer too.  He is busy every weekend playing somewhere and has really learned and grown a lot as a musician.  We are all so proud of him.

After a late night out hanging out in a bar (which I haven't been too since I was in my twenties) I headed home to get, oh about three hours of sleep, before my flight.  I was excited to see my husband again, but not about going back home to winter.  Thankfully, it was a rare, beautiful,  sixty plus degree day when I arrived back home.  God must have had mercy on me.  My husband was so happy to see me again.  He got the car washed before he picked me up, and was wearing cologne and looking good!  It was so funny!  Sometimes, spending time apart really makes a couple realize how much they really can't live with out each other.

Have a  Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE and Travel Tuesday!