Sunday, April 24, 2016

EVERY BLOOMING THING UNDER THE SUN: GARDEN NEWS


The start of the tulip parade


One would think that I've been busy as a bee since it has been a little over a week since I last posted.         Really though, I haven't.  Just some normal 'catch up' after our trip...laundry, a car wash, making the house a little more presentable.  Errands, grocery store, light therapy for the skin 3 times a week.  And there wasn't much to photograph.  My Swiffer?  Do you ever feel as if a lack of photos means a lack of words?  Well, I'll do my best, I'm rarely at a loss for words.  ;-D

We had wonderful weather last weekend and I was really, really happy that I only had to make a few subtle hints to get The Husband to clean out our shed.  It has been a super mess for a very long time and I knew it would take me weeks and weeks to clean out.  Bags of old fertilizer and grass seed long expired, rakes, shovels and garden tools scattered all over.  In a far corner, Abby's  bike from when she was about 13.  He filled about 10 huge trash bags and had a huge stack of junk to be brought out on trash day.  Thankfully our son in law, Mike, came over and lended a hand in bringing it all to the curb. It's such a relief to have all of this space.  There is already some shelving in there as well as hooks on the wall.  I really can't wait to organize everything.  Gardening is going to be much more easy this year and clean up in the fall a breeze.  Thank you, dear. 



I forget the name of these tiny flowers each spring and I think you gals told me their name last spring.  Help!  Also, do you think I can divide them, they are great ground cover.

Last Sunday when The Husband was doing the shed makeover, son Kevin came by with little Elsie.  She's been walking for 2 1/2 months so it was so cool to have her in our back yard.  I took her hand and showed her the tulips, picked one for her which she promptly tried to eat.  She really loved the branches of the forsythia, so bright yellow now.  Abby and Tom pulled out my patio table and umbrella that morning so we spent time in the shade.  I made her some buttered toast and cottage cheese and she sat on my lap in the shade to munch.  Then we took a little stroll, hand in hand down the front sidewalk.  She babbled and I guess what I said was babble to her:  "This is where your daddy walked to school for years, from the age of four to thirteen".  We walked back to the house and stopped where you can see the gate to our backyard.  Milo and Layla were waiting and she immediately recognized them and pulled toward that direction.  Then she saw Grandpa in his bright red shirt near the shed and her face lit up.  We had a great afternoon and I think Kevin liked his alone time in the cool house watching the Cubs game.



More backyard babble.  Told you I didn't have a lot of pictures.  I can't wait for warmer weather to add to my herb garden.  My chives and oregano come back every year and you can see the dead foliage of last years morning glories.  I don't clear them out in the fall, the seed pods are ripe and ready to pop up once they get rain. Yes, a lot more clean up 

Speaking of rain, I have some bare spots in my lawn and I'm a perfectionist about my front and backyard.  I like to reseed when I know we have rain predicted but sometimes it doesn't work out for the best.  With rain in the forecast on Wednesday evening, I flew to Home Depot after my light therapy and paid a fortune (as usual) for grass seed.  I didn't even go into the house once I got home, rain drops had started to fall.  I opened the garage, pulled down the spreader, filled it up and seeded that front lawn in about ten minutes flat.  And then a light rain started and I did a little jig inside.  And  then the thing I dread happened.  The rain started coming down in torrents and that washed the seed around, and made puddles in shallow spots.  My only consolation is I do have about 1/4 of the bag left and I'll wait until June to fill in random spots.  Am I not a relentless perfectionist?



I might have forgotten to mention that the day after I came back from Canada I went over to Emily's house, she watches little Elsie on Thursdays.  The Husband and I always get her (Elsie, not Emily) a little something with the name of the places we visit.  Isn't it cute?  Later that day the three of us went to Target and wow, it was so cool to push a baby in a cart again!  And she is so good.  Even though she was getting tired, she was excellent.  She rarely, if ever cries.


  

This was another beautiful weekend and Milo and Layla are really loving the warm temps and the tease of summer.  I dug out the 'outdoor' water bowl and little Layla, who loves to stretch out in the sun, became a little overheated and decided that the cold water was the place to lie down next to in the shade.  

I have tons of work to do outside and I haven't even begun to plant flowers.  I have plenty in my flower beds but I love pretty pots.  Just not warm enough yet. 

 In between my time outside doing the chores, I'm catching up on some reading, visiting more blogs every evening than I have been in the past few months (thank you for understanding that life sometimes gets crazy) and I've been really experimenting in the kitchen with new recipes.  I take such terrible pictures of food and since we actually eat what I make, I can't spend a lot making the food look pretty; staging with various props and letting it get cold.  Each recipe I've tried, one from a restaurant in Vancouver with ingredients I sort of figured out and stored in my phone, have been spectacular and I'm sure I'm going to make these again and again and I'll be sure to get a few shots.  What's a recipe without a picture? And something I'm really happy about is I did dust off my little Canon, used it in Canada, and downloaded some pics today.  In fact, all of my flower pictures were taken with this camera so I'm keeping it at hand and definitely not grabbing my iPhone for pictures.  Hopefully my food will look better!  Some of the recipes I made for the first time were Quinoa Salad with arugula, red pepper, cucumber, capers and Feta cheese.  Another great recipe was a wonderful Chicken Paprikash that is very traditional to Hungary, and utterly the best.  And finally, an oven baked fish and chips.  How great not having to have it fried.  The secret?  Browning the bread crumbs in a skillet before you coat the fish with them.  I'll share these in upcoming posts.

Thanks so much for the visit.  I'll try to stay on track a bit better.  I hope all of you are having good weather.  Would love to hear what you are doing outside to get ready for summer.  What is your weather like?

Have a great week and I'll be back soon (just need that camera at my side!).

GO BLACKHAWKS!!!

Jane x

Saturday, April 16, 2016

VANCOUVER LOVE


Our hotel 

Our much anticipated trip to Vancouver came and went in the blink of any eye.  6 days is really the average for us when we take trips but this one kept The Husband and I on our toes and it flew by.  This was our second time visiting and we were able to cover much more ground.  The first few days were work for The Husband but I managed very well to keep myself busy.  I'm getting ahead of myself though.  Of course there had to be some mishaps.  The Perils of Pauline often occur in Blondieville and this was no exception.  There's something about travel and airports...

At some point during our 4 1/2 hour flight I felt a sort of pricking in my chest area.  Like getting stabbed every few seconds.  I went to the washroom on the plane and pulled the zipper down on my sweater and saw the culprit.  The sharp underwire of my bra had poked through the fabric and was actually stabbing me in the chest.  I did what I could to poke and pull it into place and then went back to my seat.  Needless to say I fiddled with this for the remainder of the flight.  I was well aware that I might just be drawing attention to myself, the woman in the aisle seat pulling her zipper up and down and seemingly fiddling with her bosom.  But it was after all, a matter of life and death.

Long story short, we made it to Vancouver, got our luggage, went through customs and all the while I worried about bending or twisting...truly stabbing myself and dying in the most embarrassing way possible.  Finally I was able to get to a washroom. Can you imagine trying to undress and remove your bra in a 3 x 5 space when you are in a complete sweat?  I was so relieved to dump the offending garment in the trash bin, black and lacy and sexy as it was.  Then I had to deal with being braless and spending the next hour finishing up at the airport, taking a train to the area we were staying in and then a cab to the hotel.  I did all of this with my arms crossed over my chest as if it were cold.  No...it was 67 degrees and I'll be darned if I wasn't dressed for the 37 degree temps and snow that we were having in Chicago when we left that morning.  I looked like an idiot.  Bonjour Vancouver, Blondie has arrived.  ;-(



A view from our hotel restaurant~~

As I mentioned in previous posts, The Husband was invited to give a presentation to a large international group of people having to do with the legal field.  As an attorney for some 40 years, he is an expert in his chosen area of law and well respected not only in Illinois, but the entire U.S.  He worked so hard preparing for this and he totally aced it.  His portion of the plane fare, food and lodging was paid for so that was a plus for us, and the hotel was chosen by the hosting organization.  It couldn't have been a better choice.  Located in the Coal Harbour area, we were on the waterfront and within walking distance of some of the best sites.  My first view of the mountains was from our hotel restaurant.



The husband needed time and space to prepare for his presentation and was also meeting with people here and there so I was pretty much on my own.  I'm going to be brutally honest here,  I'm really not one to get around well by myself.  Yes, I did when I was younger.  In my twenties I did a ton of stuff independently, had no problem going here and yonder by myself, but after 30+ years with a life partner, you get used to doing things as a couple.  But I had to come to the realization that we aren't Bert and Ernie and that I had to put on my big girl pants.  I hadn't planned doing it in another country but with map in hand, I set out for a shopaholic paradise, Robson Street.  Now, I can get lost in a phone booth but I have to admit, I did quite well and I really had a ball.  Great shops and wonderful places to sit on benches and people watch.  After two hours of shopping and browsing I stopped for a light lunch.  I haven't had a meal alone in a restaurant in a very long time but I was quite comfortable.  As I made my way back to the hotel I received a text from The Husband, "Where are you????"  Ha!  He's the one who booted me out of our room!  Never underestimate a woman when shopping is involved. 



Emily helped me shop for this vacation.  She always makes me look at things with a fresh eye.  I wear way too much black and gray and I don't like patterns...I feel frumpy and/or clownish.  I wasn't too sure about several items, especially this top.  When she said it looked nautical I fell for it.  I actually wore it twice and as I teased on Instagram, I slept on it.  We had feather down pillows and I'm allergic.  Every time I thought of asking for synthetic it was late at night so I would lay a piece of my clothing over the pillow.  It kept me from waking with splotches on my face. This blouse was nice and soft.  Double duty.



Our brother in law, Jack, has lived in Vancouver for well over ten years.  He married a gal  from there and unfortunately it didn't work out but he loves where he is and plans to stay.  It was so great seeing him and he has a new friend, Isabella (Izzie).  The Husband and I had such a wonderful time with them at this restaurant, Cardero's.  Located in the harbor, we were swooning over the incredible yachts tied up to the piers.  I especially loved the nautical decor inside the restaurant; ship wheels, anchors, canoes and small versions of seaplanes hanging from the high ceilings.  The seafood was incredible and we enjoyed catching up with Jack and getting to know Izzie.  I can't say enough how impressed I was with the restaurant, the location, views, decor, service and excellent food.  



The harbor next to Cardero's



I was so lucky to meet up with two bloggers, seems I 'know' someone in every city  I guess that's probable when you've been blogging for 7 years.  Lori, from Family Trees May Contain Nuts (far right) and I have been blog friends forever.  Nancy, from Stonecrop Sisters, and I have been following one another for about 2 years.  We met at a restaurant a few blocks from my hotel.  We had a wonderful lunch and as always, I'm so happy and surprised when I meet bloggers and we talk and laugh like we've known each other for years.  That was the case here.  :-D




We drove up to Whistler, BC early Monday morning.  It was gloomy and raining but the drive was beautiful.  The sea on one side of the highway and on the other, mountains that changed from solid rock to sky scraping pines.  


As we neared our destination the sun came out and it was even more spectacular.



I did my research and found a hotel in Whistler Village where we could walk to everything.  It's called The Delta Whistler Village Suites.  This is a view from our room.  You can see the snow covered ski trails on one of the mountains.  We don't ski but I was feeling that athletic and adventurous vibe in the air.  I told The Husband we should take lessons in Michigan where there are a few places to ski, in fact our kids took lessons.  Well, it was a nice but fleeting thought.




We strolled through the village, stopped in a few shops and had lunch on a rooftop cafe.  The weather was perfect, all that was needed was a light jacket.  Many of the restaurants have heated outdoor spaces such as this one where we stopped for a cocktail.  




The Village looked so gorgeous lit up at night as well.  Everything is open a little later as the skiers go as long as they can.  There was a festival going on in the town as well, so there was live music here and there and a pretty happy crowd.  



Seeing the rings from the 2010 Winter Olympics made my heart skip a beat.  I'm glad I got this photo at dusk, it really looks cool, doesn't it?



We had to leave early the next morning for the two hour drive back to Vancouver.  We decided 'next time' we would stay in Whistler longer.  We never actually left The Village.  

Back in Vancouver we checked back into The Pinnacle.  I had viewed some other places to stay but this hotel was very nice.  I asked about upgrading our city-view room to a waterfront view.  It was $20 more and The Husband said I could come down to the restaurant if I wanted to see the water.  He's blunt like that.  The girl at the desk gave me a sympathetic smile.   When we arrived on the 18th floor I noticed our room was across the hall from our previous room...and yes, you've got it.  She gave us the waterfront view!  We had a small balcony and this was the view that evening.  That lit up structure in the center of this photo is actually a floating gas station.  It was not only a pleasure to watch the boats coming and going but there were many, many small seaplanes.  I have tons of pictures of them on my camera and I was able to zoom in on them as they were taking off and landing.  And they tied up to piers just like boats!  That was a new thing for me.



Our last day was very rainy.  Drenching rain and we wandered around with umbrellas and ducked in and out of shops and bars.  We ended up for dinner at a beautiful restaurant in the Westin Hotel where we celebrated our last night having seafood chowder, fish and gelato for dessert.  

I hope this wasn't too long or drawn out, or too busy with photos.  I haven't had a chance to look at the ones I took with my camera.  We arrived home late Wednesday night.  I think spring arrived in Chicago while I was gone.  I'm sitting outside as I type this, it's 75 degrees.  Unbelievable.  The Husband is cleaning out the shed and the dogs are lying in the sun.  I haven't sat still since I came home.  Grocery shopping, eye doctor, a visit with Emily who watches Elsie on Thursdays, and the annual visit to the vet with Milo yesterday.  You want to hear something funny?  Abby has been moaning and groaning about how old Milo is getting, 14 years old (young).  She thinks he's going deaf and blind.  So yesterday I asked Dr. B. just how old Milo is based on his records.  Well the darn dog just turned 12 last fall!  I couldn't wait to tell Abby.  Now, don't you wish we had that sort of luck?  Just a mere two year miscalculation on our age?

Quiet week ahead (I think).  I hope to fiddle around outside, I have some daffodils and early tulips coming up as well as grape hyacinths and snowdrops.  I'm going to plant a little 'salad garden' while the weather is still a bit cool...I think I'm going to give up the tomato plants in containers, I only manage to get about five ripe ones and that's not until late August.  :(

I hope you're having a great weekend and that you might just be having weather like us.  It's heavenly!  See you soon.

Jane 




Sunday, April 3, 2016

RANDOM COMINGS & GOINGS


Let's start with some pretty flowers today.  I seem to gravitate to them every time I do my grocery shopping as you know.  The other day it was $5 bouquets so I chose two bunches of spray roses.  I have this fantastic wire container with three glass jars and flower frog tops that make arranging so simple with spectacular results.  You've seen this before but I've never actually used it on my table until recently.  I combined two different shades, yellow and pink, and I think it looks beautiful.  I hope they last as long as those carnations I shared in my last post.  Changing the water every day and snipping a bit at the bottom of the stems helps.  The porcelain tray they sit on is a purchase from Williams Sonoma years ago.  Very, very pretty.  I love bringing it out in the spring.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Easter.  We had a lovely day.  The weather was quite warm and we talked and laughed and enjoyed a great dinner.  Dessert was wonderful...so many sweets brought by guests, much more than needed.  A great time all around.

I had a few dishes that failed but I was prepared for that. I disappointed myself with the trifle I had planned for dessert.  This however, was not the first time I had made one.  I simply didn't fully read the recipe as I went through the various steps...cake, filling, fruit, repeat.  I mixed the whipped cream into the filling (pudding and condensed milk among other things) when I should have folded it in at the end. Instead of a firm sort of custard it was more like milk  The next layer, berries, would have sunk into oblivion.  Happily I had the homemade pound cake and extra whipped cream as well as strawberries and that's a nice dessert of its own.  Several family member brought sweets as well.  We weren't lacking at all.  

I promised a few recipes and you can find links at the end of my post. You can also follow me on Pinterest by clicking on the icon on my sidebar.  Most of my recipes are Pinned and I make a ton of changes...I pick apart recipes all the time and give my own stamp on them until I'm satisfied.  I'll only give you recipes on my blog if I have done that.  Otherwise a direct link to the source.  You can fiddle with these recipes as well.  That's originality.  :)





I always try to make anything and everything ahead of time for big dinners and holidays.  I had an appointment with my dermatologist downtown the Friday before Easter and planned to start some desserts and make~ahead dishes later that day.  I was however, feeling a bit off that morning  After I showered and about 15 minutes before I was ready to leave, I felt a wave of nausea come over me and from then on it was a downhill course if you know what I mean.  The Husband tucked  me into bed and called to cancel the appointment.  It really upset me as I need to be monitored, have blood tests, etc., to make sure the meds aren't affecting my liver and kidneys. 

 As I laid in bed I kept thinking of all of the preparations I had to do for Easter Sunday.  I really like a head start, am determined to have a head start.  I had shopping, cleaning and a few recipes to do as early as possible.  But I was feverish, chilled and nauseous.  And then...there was a knock at the door.  A representative for the electric company.  They were going to be trimming trees in my backyard and along the alley to clear the power lines...please keep your dogs in.  Oh, that's easy.  Except my dogs can hear, see and sense anyone within 50 feet of our house.  I had 50 guys in bright yellow vests and hard hats doing macho stuff with my 50 walnut trees and then hauling the poor and healthy limbs to their cruel chipper truck.  Oh, such excitement for Milo and Layla and misery for me.  I shut the blinds, closed the curtains and thought about blasting the Rolling Stones on my iPod, but instead I suffered in silence.  As you can see above, as evidence of my distress, I pulled Milo's favorite chair away from a living room window but it didn't deter the dude from straddling it.  Obscene almost.  As horrifying it was, it makes for a good blog post.



Abby was on spring break this week and I always feel that I have to clarify that she is a teacher, not a student.  At 25 years old, being petite and pretty, she really does look like a student and it drives her mad.  She arrived home Easter Sunday morning with a cute tray of sliced cakes and a container of guacamole and chips.  She thrust them at me and said, "Never go to the grocery store on Easter morning.  The whole place was swimming with desperate people."  And then she caught sight of The Husband vacuuming the living room rug.  He was feeling sympathetic after my stomach bug and was doing pretty much everything I asked him to do.  Yes, it was shocking for both me and Abby.  I was simply happy that he needed only a minimum of directions to find the vacuum cleaner.



As I said, Abby was on spring break and I was really looking forward to some one on one time with her.  She has been living on the Northside of Chicago for the past year with her best friends and as we are on the Southside, we've missed her.  Now, she and her boyfriend of 7 years have found an apartment just 5 houses down from where she lives now.  A three story apartment with a cool courtyard that blends in very much with the million dollar homes (seriously) on the block.  I say this because her safety depends very much on the neighborhood she lives in.  So far we've only seen some pictures.  Move in date is April 30th.  

Today The Husband and I drove up to be with her and some of her housemates for her birthday at a pub on the corner called Toons.  We had a fabulous time.  The weather was so strange.  It would be sunny and pleasant and then turn dark with snow blowing in the high winds.  It would stop and start over and over again.  Very odd and now we have temps expected in the 60's.  


April 2, 2016  
Downtown Chicago


This photo was taken from our car on our way back home.  The clouds were quite ominous.

I ordered a gift for her that hasn't arrived yet, but then again her actual birthday is on April 7.  She never reads my blog so I'll tell you.  A fine gold necklace with an 'A' charm and another little teardrop charm with Tom's birthstone.  I actually paid extra for fast shipping but it wasn't here today when we met up with her.  Grrrrr...  I hope it arrives before we leave for Canada.

We had a great five days together.  Monday we hit HomeGoods for some 'this and that' for her apartment.  I was on a weird mission to find her a butter dish.  I know, very strange.  I actually found three that I placed in one spot, (shhhh...) to show her.  As I walked the aisles I felt my heart getting heavy.  She doesn't have that black belt in shopping like Emily and I do.  I expected to find her with nothing.  As I rounded a corner there she was, her cart half full.  She has a vision!  Yay!  Spa colors for her bath, some kitchen items and even a few decorative pieces  (you can see some of this in the photos below).   So many things piled on the floor in my family  room.  She was so excited to show Tom.  Yes, these are my tosies! And no, she didn't like any of the butter dishes.  Claims she doesn't use butter, just olive oil.  I'm guessing she'll never bake.  




After HomeGoods and two furniture stores, we had a late lunch at Corner Bakery.  Tuesday we went to 2 more furniture stores and a mall~I needed a few products from Sephora.  Yes, I need some attention, too!  She and Tom ended up at Ikea that night and bought a sectional and are very happy (ever after I hope).



I've been searching and searching for a real wreath all over the place but didn't want to pay $75+ dollars.  This is handmade with real wheat and I scored it for under $20!  It may not last forever but I really love the real thing.  I'm not against silk plants, I think they look great from a distance in an urn on the hearth or fireplace, but not in close proximity.  But it suits many people and I don't knock that.  I hope this pretty wreath lasts awhile.  We have a storm door so I think I'm good.

With the risk of changing my blog name to Blondie's Medical Journal, I just wanted to share a little about my dermatology appointment Friday.  My skin is doing really well and I may have the meds cut in half at my next appointment in a few weeks.  Yes, no more headaches!  So at this appointment my doctor wanted a blood test to check my liver and kidney functions that are sometimes affected by this drug.  And gulp...I only have one kidney (long story).  My blood pressure was sky high, too, and that frightened me.  As my luck goes, the nurse/tech had to stick me 5 times, one in the back of my hand, and seriously could not get blood.  I turned my head to The Husband each time to avoid the sight and each time I thought it was happening.  Nope.  I said to him, 'Hon, I truly think I'm dead."  And he replied,  "No. You're still Googling restaurants for lunch"

Great week ahead.  A blood test at a facility of my choice (they decided not to stick me any further).  Two light therapies bumped up to three.  I finally got a current eye exam and need to follow up on that.  The dreaded teeth cleaning.  But on a happy note, my blog friend, Cindy, and her husband are coming to Chicago and we are meeting for dinner on Monday night.  I am SO looking forward to that.  She's the blogger I met 7 years ago and we meet up once or twice a year.  We may also meet up for a little shopping and lunch as well.  I am beyond happy!  

I have three links for recipes I think you guys might love.  As I said, I screwed up the trifle but it's a recipe you may want to keep.  The Italian Spread is a keeper.  Make it ahead, it tastes better after it melds.   Several people raved over the Chilled Strawberry Soup.  I added a bit more cream than the recipe calls for, taste it as you go along.  It was a little tart to me. ;-)


I'll see you hopefully before our trip next Friday.

Jane





Thursday, March 24, 2016

BOOKS, BUNNIES AND CHANGING TRADITIONS


Happy Spring!  It truly feels like it here in the Midwest.  Yesterday was 65 degrees yet for some reason I was feeling a little lethargic.  I had bought some of my crabgrass/grub killer/fertilizer Sunday and wasn't looking forward to hauling those huge bags out of my car.  I nearly broke my back putting them in the cart at Home Depot and then my hatchback.  But it was warm and sunny with a prediction of rain.  Since my hoses are stored away, I really wanted to count on Mother Nature to water this stuff in.  So I rose to the occasion and got it down and as we speak, the rain is pouring from the skies. Now that's perfect Mother Nature love. 

I wanted to share a book I recently ordered from Amazon.  Do you have Amazon Prime?  You pay a set fee once per year and then all of your items are shipped free.  I love it.  I get all of my books there (and that works as there are so few bookstores anywhere around me now).  I also get a variety of other things.  The upholstered headboard for the guest room bed was delivered free.  :-D  Anyway, this book is so sweet, homey and inspiring, I've had a few minutes here and there to explore.  I'll let you know what I think later but if you want to check it out, as well as the reviews, you can go to Amazon.  



I'm going to post a few pics of my bunny collection as I write about other irrelevant things.  Above is a stuffed fabric bunny wearing a snappy little vest and holding his lunch and for the life of me I can't remember where or when I found him.  I think it had to be at an end of season sale, maybe Marshall's.  He's huge and I found the perfect spot for him to sit on a chair in my living room.

I've been crazy busy since my last post in that I wanted to get a current and timely blog post out to you guys and I also had a newspaper article due the 18th.  I write my column much like my blog, as if I'm talking to a group of people.  But for the newspaper I try to give more tips and tried and true experiences with my forays in cooking, gardening and all things lake related.  I don't believe I will ever have a post that has a title that starts with, "How to...".  And I will never do that to the country folk that read this newspaper.  Imagine me writing about the apple pie recipe I use when there are so many readers who have recipes passed down from their great, great grandmothers?  Silly.  I try to inspire with newer recipes, stretching the imagination.  This month I shared some of my spring cleaning ideas as well as a recipe.  I love writing and this wonderful little job I have.  It will be so great to get back up to the lake and ask my neighbors if they read the column.  As so many of us are on first name basis, it will be a great way to get an honest opinion.  Yikes! 



Simple bunny in the bathroom




Speaking of the lakehouse, it's been all about demolition, electrical and plumbing lately.  We picked out what we wanted for the baths and sent that on to the contractor.  I'm guessing that after this comes the dry wall, trim and floors.  We went with wide plank dark stained maple.  We have also ordered the new appliances and I've gotten all my paint colors chosen.  Tomorrow we are going to a cabinetry shop in downtown Chicago and I'm hoping to find the reclaimed wood that I want for my upper open shelves in the kitchen.  I'm very excited about all of this but I really can't imagine the end  coming soon.  I have to continue to be patient.  




I didn't bring out all of my Easter/spring decor.  I have limited space.  I spread out what I had over the whole house including the bathrooms and guest/Abby's room.  I didn't want to overload anything. And I've mentioned how creepy all of those staring eyes can be.   Ha!





I find it hard to change tradition and for years we've had the same holiday dinner menus.  There have been occasions where I've switched up recipes, for example my simple sweet potatoes.  I found a recipe that took them above and beyond my norm with maple syrup and walnuts.  A big thumbs down and a lot of whining.  One year Emily made the mashed potato casserole and added cream cheese and you would have thought the world ended.  This year I decided to do the tried and true but throw in some new ideas in addition.  No one will miss their favorites and maybe they will like my new dishes and request them for years on.  Or not.  

This guy is on my coffee table and if I can possibly say I have favorite, this may be it.  I love the sassy pose, sweet face and floppy ears.  :-D  I've been meaning to apologize for my pictures of late.  I get so harried when I want to post that I simply snap away with my cell phone.  And its also convenient to use it when out and about.   I'm going to do my best and dust off my good camera and be a little less sloppy.  



So my Easter menu this year is as follows and I added an asterisk after the new recipes.

Spinach salad with feta cheese, red onion, hard boiled egg and poppy seed dressing **
Chilled strawberry soup **
Ham with honey glaze
Mashed potatoes
Scalloped potatoes **
 Glazed carrots with parsley **
Corn
Rolls and butter
~~~~

Appetizers

Hot Italian Dip with crackers and veggies **
Buffalo Chicken meatballs **

~~~~

Dessert

Trifle with Pound Cake and White Chocolate Pudding and Berries **
Three Chocolate layered Brownies

~~~~

Signature Cocktail

Champagne with a scoop of Mango Sorbet **

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The Bunny above sits on my mantel.  Its made out of a soft linen and is very huggable.



Bunny figurines on a ledge in 2nd the bathroom.  Little Girl Bunny lost an ear somehow and I can't find it to glue it back on.  :(


I've set the bar very high many times with my menus and have sincerely told you guys about my failures.  But you learn that way.  I suppose I might eliminate some of these dishes if I'm running short on time but I have every intention to try and with some planning, make many things ahead of time.  First, I'm sort of happy that there will be only nine of us...we can all fit around the table.  Secondly, I always find that making a ham is so freeing as opposed to making the Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey.  A no-brainer and no gravy...yay!  I usually make the ham early and keep it covered.  A half hour before dinner we carve it and keep it in the oven at a gentle 250 degrees.  I pour a lot of pan juices over to keep it from drying out.



The Gardeners~

Again, since we have a smaller group I can set a pretty table...no one will be balancing plates on their laps in the living room.  So I can make a nice table setting while everyone is relaxing with appetizers in the living room.  The temps are supposed to be in the 40's so maybe we will have a fire.  I plan to have the soup and salad first and the rest as a buffet.  My memory was jogged for the Chilled Strawberry Soup when I read a blog posted by Rita at Panoply.  She did a beautiful spring tablescape and mentioned the soup.  The Husband and I had it at a B&B in the Shenandoah Valley two years ago.  I absolutely loved it and planned to make it one day.  Totally forgot.  I'll give you links for all of these new recipes in my next post.  



Abby is on spring break from the school she teaches at next week.  I hope we can get out to do some fun things when she visits.  I put this little angel bunny on her bed.  She'll always be my baby.  Abby, that is.

 I've done a bit of shopping for our trip to Vancouver but it's been difficult not knowing the weather.  I have a weather app on my phone that includes that region and they always seem to be about 5-10 degrees lower than Chicago.  I'm beginning to think flat shoes and cropped pants won't be a reality.  I'm good though...we are quite cold here until May so I'm going to have to forgo the T shirts and light sweaters and stick with what I'm wearing now.  I simply can't afford to pack the wrong things.



I wanted to show you guys a picture of Emily's living room.  She used to have taupe vertical stripes on this long wall which were quite cool.  Recently she decided to make a change and painted the stripes a soft blue/green color.  She wasn't happy.  She tried a few more colors...just along the edges and finally decided on this shade.  I think she called it Coffee Bean by SW.  I thought she was really brave, at least for me and my color phobia.  As an interior designer she has a keen eye and vision many of us don't have.  This is why she is so successful in her field.  Most of all she knows what she likes and can put a room together perfectly.  Anyway, I'm loving this.



The light changes and the color takes on putty shade.  It looks beautiful with her furniture and pieces.  She is not tied into any trend.  She goes with what she loves and knows what works.  I have gotten so much advice from her and I truly believe my home, with her help, is a reflection of what I love and can't be defined by any 'style'.  I truly enjoy decorating books and the many shows on TV that show how spaces can be transformed.  It's all food for thought.  I have a nice collection of decorating books and I pick up any one of them from time to time and get inspired by ideas I hadn't thought of before.   There is no 'one way' to do anything and fresh ideas are in abundance if you really keep your eyes open. :-D

So...that's all I have this week.  It was a busy week for sure.  You know that I do the light therapy every Monday and Tuesday.  Last week I had a teeth cleaning appointment with my dentist and as if a miracle occurred, the hygienist had to cancel.  I joked with the receptionist that this was sort of a happy thing but it seemed she didn't share that feeling.    

 Easter dinner grocery store trip is next after a shower.  It's thundering and there are huge puddles everywhere, maybe I don't need one!

I want to give a little mention to a few people who have commented recently on my posts.  First, Anonymous.  You gave me such kind and caring thoughts on my skin problems and followed up a second time.  Please know I appreciate it and hope you come by often.  Also, Kathleen George in Arizona.  I have no way to reach you but I want to thank you for your visits.  You really 'read' my posts and leave such great comments!  If you have an email address, please let me know.  

Enough for today.  If I don't get back soon, I wish you a happy and blessed Easter!

Jane

Thursday, March 17, 2016

FLOWERS & A ST. PATRICK'S DAY PARADE IN CHICAGO


Hello, everyone and Happy St. Paddy's Day.  Have you noticed my green font?  I'm not crazy about the color green, at least in my clothing, paint colors, my clothing...did I say that?  I own nothing green.  We celebrate this huge, huge day on the Sunday before the actual March 17th here on the Southside of Chicago.  Our parade rivals the one in Downtown Chicago big time as we are predominately an Irish Catholic neighborhood.  So many from "over on the boat' as we say of  the Irish who leave family and friends behind to join relatives here in Chicago.  In the past I've posted pictures of our parade and the traditional dying of the Chicago River to a brilliant green.  And as always, rest assured people, it's vegetable dye and wouldn't harm a carp.  

Loving my carnations.  My grocery store (yes, Jane was haunting the grocery stores again this week) had a deal...3 bouquets for $12.  I hopped on it.  They were huge bunches.  Carnations, or mums, last SO long.  Change the water often, it gets a little smelly. :(



I had enough of those carnations to make a vase for my coffee table.  I am always sort of amazed at how this glass table looks like an optical illusion when I take photos.  Everything seems to be floating on air.  Then you can see my rug underneath and I always wonder if I missed picking up a few wayward cracker crumbs or peanut shells that someone may notice.  

I love candy dishes filled with chocolates.  I'm pretty much over my sweet faze and I like when my kids come by and scoop a handful up.  I'll be known as that crazy old Mom/Grandma that always had candy.  



And the last of my three bouquets are these white mums.  I'm in flower heaven.  Even better, I am seeing so many new green shoots in my yard.  Daffs, tulips, day lilies, crocus and hyacinths.  We had a very mild winter here however, and the last time this happened my spring plants such as these came up very stunted.  I didn't think the bulbs would ever bloom nicely again.  Here in the Midwest they really need a good 6 weeks of very cold temps, even a few freezes.  I'm wary of what might actually be my spring garden.  Fingers crossed for the best.



A new sign.  I think it's darling.  I'm a little embarrassed to say I have not yet brought up anything spring-like from the storage.  Not one bunny or egg.  I'm on the go and when I'm not, I feel like doing absolutely nothing.  I will get to it tomorrow as I really have nothing planned for once.  The Husband thinks I should schedule appointments and errands in one or two full days.  I, on the other hand, like to spread them out over the week thinking its good to get out every day.   I don't simply do one thing, I throw in a few errands and my little trips to the store (I know---I'm insane).

At the risk of boring you as far as the never ending skin issues, and this might just wrap it up, I am so improved.  I started the photo light therapy at a dermatology clinic in a suburb nearby.  Actually, it's 20 minutes away, I sit in the waiting room about 15 minutes and the time spent in the area where I get the 'rays" is 45 seconds.  But I'm not complaining.  I no longer have the horrid rash or blotches, nor the hive like symptoms on my face and neck.  The spots where I scratched like crazy and drew blood are healing so well.  I feel hopeful each and every day.  2 days a week...a little over an hour of my time.  Thanks for listening to me and weighing in on your problems with eczema or someone you know, and your ways of dealing with it.  We're helping each other.  :)



I am really getting excited about our trip to Vancouver.  It's been over 10 years since we've been there. My brother-in-law met a lovely girl visiting Chicago who lived in Vancouver.  After a long distance relationship he moved there and they were married.  Of course we were all there and what a great time it was from the wedding to the reception at the Vancouver Yacht Club.  Yeah...a great way to celebrate the marriage and our first trip to this incredibly beautiful place, but little time to explore.  We re meeting up with Jack when we visit and we are so looking forward to that.  I'm planning to meet a blogger friend (or two) as well and I want to thank these ladies for giving me some great tips on what to pack, wear, see and explore.  And my friend, Lynne, from Dreams On 34th Street who lives in Seattle ...she's given me a wealth of info.  Thanks, Lynne!!!

I have pretty much all I need.  The weather is up and down there.  Layers.  And a trip up to Whistler in the mountains...iffy.  As per usual I overpack but I'm really trying to plan ahead and stay clear of that. Yes, I know it won't happen but give me credit for trying.  Above you can see a pair of flats I found today.  Are they not cool?  They certainly go with the basic black I wear every single day.  Can I say slimming?  The clothes, not the shoes.  Although the shoes may help.  Mentally.  



Lastly, a picture of Elsie all decked out for the Southside Parade this past Sunday.  Sadly it rained like  cats and dogs.  But Kevin and Mary Clare soldiered on with a huge golf umbrella.  You can't stop the stubborn Irish!  Elsie is looking a little skeptical here but I know she had a great time.



My son, Kevin, MC and little Elsie all bundled up.  Mary Clare's mom, Peggy, you know her...my partner in crime/Elsie's other grandma, had a brunch the morning of the parade (she lives about 4 blocks from the route).  It was delicious and so fun.  A wonderful spread of pastries, egg casseroles, sausages and bagels.  And of course, mimosas.  We had a great time with little Elsie, and Katie (MC's sister) and Kevin's little girl Margot toddling around and making us laugh. Katie's little girl, Cecilia, born just before Christmas is precious.  How full our family has become.  I skipped the parade...I'm not a fan of crappy weather unless I'm on a shopping spree (!) and I'm not totally Irish--I have a bit of German on my mother's side.  Her maiden name was Doll (imagine if her name was Barbara what she could have been called for short).  Terrible.  The food in Germany I am sure is wonderful, but when my grandfather visited and cooked, and he was the one who cooked in the family, it was so bland.  I sincerely think it was his way, I have no inclination to insult the Germans for anything.  I'm sure I would totally enjoy a visit, in fact my sons went to Cologne to stay with friends when they were in their early teens.  

Long story short.  Parade Sunday.  I left the brunch with Abby and her boyfriend Tom and we went to a restaurant a few blocks from home and met up with Tom's (huge) family.  So fun.  I had two glasses of wine on top of two mimosas at brunch and all I wanted to do was go home and take a nap.  But corned beef and cabbage called and that's what I worked on once home.  Me and a huge pot of coffee.

As I write it's still Wednesday.  I have no plans to make anything remotely Irish, German or even Italian or Guatemalan.  Maybe we will have Corn Flakes for dinner.  

Jane x