Sunday, October 8, 2017

FREE FALLIN


Dining Table, Fall 2017

Simple, simple, I brought up a few fall pieces from downstairs.  These cute faux fruit went into an old bowl, and a Pier 1 sale candle went into the lantern that's been there all summer with various candles.  I also couldn't pass up these wool and straw place mats sold in a pack at HomeGoods for pennies.  I'm good until Christmas, ladies.  

I packed up a small box for daughter, Abby and Tom, and their apartment.  She said she was going to Marshall's, and I said, "Please, I am Marshall's, just a smaller version."  Name your season or holiday.  I really have to purge through some of this stuff.  I was glad to see some pics she texted me of some of the candle holders, and faux pumpkins I sent off with Tom.  The pumpkin has gold dots on it - I'm thinking that's a hip sort of thing she'd like.



My Beloved Island, Fall 2017

My island is always a great sense of joy for me.  It has a marble top, perfect for keeping dough chilled as you roll it out for pies or cookies, or not.  I just like to decorate it.  I've never rolled out a darn thing.  That's what stone counters are for.  Sometimes when we've had holidays or a party, I've been forced to move things off so we can put actual food on it.  It truly saddens me.


Kitchen Island, 2011 (sort of)

For those of you who didn't know me 6 years ago,  I crossed my fingers, whined, begged and coerced the hubby into buying the island.  It was definitely one for Blondie's Journals - Strange But True Tales.

I came upon this gem while perusing my Pottery Barn catalog and it was instant love.  Our kitchen in the city isn't large by any means, but we did knock out walls to open it up and we had a lot of space in the middle.  Maybe a chopping block or something would have been a bit more practical, but I wanted this reclaimed wood baby.  After I tried all of my wild and woolly female wiles,  I tore out the page from the catalog, and in my own version of copy and paste, I inserted moi!  It's a wee bit out of perspective -  I'm seriously not that tiny, nor is the island that humongous. You can enlarge to see my desperate note.  The rest is history.  

Getting back to my vignette, I won these gorgeous velvet pumpkins in a giveaway hosted by Debra at  Common Ground, 2 years ago.   I adore them.



On a side table in the living room, I had to keep it small and sweet.  These sweater pumpkins were made by the lovely Jody, at Rooted In Thyme.  All of these pumpkins come out every year without fail.  

I had some pics of the fireplace hearth and mantel, but decided it needed to be tweaked.  Funny how you see things differently through the camera lens.  I'll get to that in my next post...unless it's already Christmas.


Jane's Chili 

I shared this on Instagram.  Click HERE to follow me for more frequent posts than I do blogging, lol!  Anyway, I made this Chili the other night, my basic recipe, but sometimes you mess around and come up with something better than your best.  The Husband and I really loved it, and I thought I'd share.  Please ignore the garish photos, you all know I can't take a good food picture.  Also, everyone has their own favorite chili recipe,  but keep your mind open; you might just want to try some of my twists.  Please read the recipe through before you even shop or start.  I've noted changes you might not have in your arsenal of ingredients for Chili.

Jane's Chili

1 1/2 lb. ground beef, or 4 freshly prepared beef Pub Burgers*
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can of black or kidney beans (or your choice)
1 c beef broth
2 T chili powder
1 t red pepper flakes
1 T sugar
2 t ground cumin
2 t ground cinnamon
S & P to taste

Sour cream, cheddar cheese, radish slices, or whatever you like for garnish.

***

Notes:  Rather than an ordinary package of ground beef, I had a package of pre-made 'Pub Burgers' from my grocery store.  The are what they sound like; fresh, firm, and ready to throw on the grill.  Except it was not grilling weather and I felt the frozen meat was going to start going downhill soon.  But---the clouds parted as I stubbornly jabbed at these rounds of beef with my wooden spoon to break them up as they cooked in the skillet.  I was left with some larger chunks, as opposed to little morsels of ground beef.  And that was the beauty of it all.  The chunks, much like steak, soaked up the liquid and spices and held firm, and it was like quite different.  I highly recommend doing your next Chili this way if you do have access to pre-made burgers.  I haven't quite figured out the 'binder' in Pub Burgers, but they certainly held their own in sautéing and cooking in the broth.  

Brown beef in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat, breaking it up until cooked through.  Remove to a bowl or plate.  Sauté the onion, peppers, and garlic over low heat until just tender.  Add the tomatoes, beans, broth, beef, and remaining spices, stirring well to incorporate.  Place in oven, covered for 1 hour.  You can then go off and do laundry or take a bubble bath if you so desire.  I hate to watch things cook slowly on the stove.  So many better things to do.

*And now, the addition of cinnamon.  Just do it for crying out loud.  I am not telling you to add a cup of horseradish or a can of beets.  Just do it and thank me later.   :)))



A couple of photos of Miss Madelyn.  I love this outfit.  I think she borrowed it from Princess Charlotte.  So cute.  Already reading books about pumpkin vignettes.  


I can't figure out her secret for always looking just perfect for the camera, especially when she has no clue what's going on.  

She turns 1 year old on November 11, but her party will be here at my house, outdoors, in two weeks.  Keep your fingers crossed the weather isn't like it normally is in October, or better yet, a simple miracle. ;-D

*****

In other news, our landscaping project is almost done.  The grass seedlings are popping up everywhere, the bushes and plants that my favorite lady gardener chose are beyond gorgeous.  I have a sweet Japanese maple that won't tower over our house in 2 years, arborvitae that will stay green all winter long, conical boxwood (who knew?), and  a few smaller 'fill in' plants.  I picked up a few mums, not many, to have next to the steps, and I'm off tomorrow for some pansies for my urn on the porch.  And then I might post some pics.  Unless it snows.  Stranger things have happened in Chicago.

The tables have been turned and I've been home alone in the city while The Husband piddles around at the lakehouse.  I was supposed to meet up with him the day after he left but I have that old virus rearing it's ugly head.  You guys already know, the virus is much like mononucleosis, but not related. Still, with both, all you want to do is sleep, get up to use the bathroom, shove some potato chips in your mouth and go back to bed.  I even bought a pretty new bathrobe to cover up the PJ's I rarely change.  If someone comes to the house I just look beautiful and contagious and they quickly leave.

So it's funny having The Husband at the lake alone.  He texts/calls me about every hour.  Last night he was trying to make a pizza in the oven and he was all messed up because there didn't seem to be an 'Off' button and he was afraid the oven would stay on until eternity.  Well, to Whirlpool, 'Off' and 'Cancel' are interchangeable, and The Husband needed a Valium with his pizza.  He's also very lonely.    And bored.  

Sadly, my input involves things like clean the garage, shed, attic.  Hang my shelves, pictures, hooks.  Wash the windows, inside and out and wipe down the trim.  Sadly, this just makes him lonely, bored and downright angry.  

A storm came through here in southeast Chicago about 4:00 p.m. today, and as usual, it blows over Lake Michigan to the East and hits the area where our cottage is.  I forewarned The Husband via a text and he was happy.  He wanted to know where the candles, flashlights and phone chargers were.  I told him I was more concerned with him bringing in the beach chair cushions and covering his truck bed up.  When I suggested that he leave the balcony doors off the bedroom open tonight to see and feel the curtains blow dramatically, this was the last text I received.  

*****Seriously, I'm slow with my writing and awake hours...ha!  But really serious, I am so heartbroken about what happened in Las Vegas.  How many of us have been there?  There is a happy go lucky vibe 24/7.  It's a fun time with family and/or friends.  To be caught in an attack by an insane person is beyond comprehension.  I can't add to anything you've read or heard.  I just feel a deep feeling of loss for what our world has become, the one we are leaving behind to our children and grandchildren.  40+ years ago it was war, country against country.  Now it is a battlefield anywhere in the US where a violent person/persons can delight in bloodshed.  

*****Love and prayers to all effected by the multiple hurricanes.  It has been entirely too much ocean fury.  We are counties united and wanting to aid, help and pray for the survival and rebuilding of these countries, even our own island, Puerto Rico.  Did I pronounce that correctly?

The coverage on TV may seem too much, my friends, and I respect that.  Still, I will never turn away from anything that is happening in our world.  No, I don't stay glued to my TV, nor do I immerse myself in newspapers or news websites, too much is too much.  I pray that our country continues to hear people speak, shout, write, and rant for what is so obvious...global warming issues, gun control, freedom of speech, and voices everywhere, everyday, every minute, making it known that our leader is not leading.  I've gone out on a limb which I have never, ever done on my blog.  I am smart.  I am informed.  I have a political voice.  I am a humanitarian, a mother who worries about the next generation, a very frustrated woman who wants peace worldwide.  Please, let's all raise our voices. 

Jane x 

*****The title of my post is dedicated to the late Tom Petty.  Rest in peace you talented and much loved musician.  

Monday, September 25, 2017

AN EARLY AUTUMN, GARDEN HAPPENINGS & AND CREATIVENESS IN THE KITCHEN


Hey guys - its fall!!!!  It had been really feeling like it big time, and then we had a heat wave come through.  From visiting blogs, it seems to have happened in a lot of regions.  We hit 96 degrees today, and the leaves were falling at the same time.  Incredible.  Fall always seems to come a little earlier in Southwest Michigan, and you can see we have an abundance of leaves to be raked up, by whom, I don't know.  ;-D



I had thought that I lost my climbing rose over the past two summers of neglect.  It had a weedy sort of vine strangling it, so one day The Husband went crazy after the weed and gave it a good snip.  Myself, I have an aversion to thorns.  Funny, the rose started to shoot up and bloomed.  As you can see, some of it is growing outward, so once again I have to start the training and attach it to the trellis.  Aren't these the most beautiful blooms?  I can't remember the name of the rose, but if I can find all of my gardening journals, we may find out.  The surrounding daises are doing well with a little deadheading.  Little pleasures.  



I usually plant lettuce and spinach in a huge pot in the backyard of the city house.  Sadly, the first bunch went to seed.  In mid July it was about two feet high and resembled nothing I can put my finger on.  I planted more in mid-August, and this is just ready to pluck to have the most fresh salads as you can get.  

My gardens and yard in the city look terrible.  It used to be that I'd be at the lake for 2-3 days per week.  That left ample time to take care of both homes (outside).  As I walked around outside the house the other day, I felt my heart breaking over the pots filled with browned, scorched skeletons of flowers I planted back in May.  My herb garden is a mess, weeds everywhere...well, you get it.  

There is a lesson learned here.  I can't have two gorgeous homes unless I simplify things.  I need to look for more maintenance free plants, and I can't overdo the amount of plants I pot or put in the garden.  Less is more.  I don't think we had one barbecue or guest over in the city house all summer.  All those potted flowers, just a shame.  For myself, when I was home, I spent time lounging on the patio while the dogs enjoyed their little haven.  So it was good enough for me.  I just have to downsize.  



We had some good friends up at the lake last weekend.  We just love Craig and Snow.  The Husband and Craig went to high school together.  Unbelievably, they went on to college and then law school together.  Now that make makes for a great friendship.  Snow and I go back a long time as well.   She is vibrant, so fun, smart, and the real deal.  We had many serious talks; sitting on the patio, or in the Summer House, and so much to catch up on.  Here in the city they live just up the street by 4 blocks.  I wish we saw each other more, but we are more likely to meet up for dinner as couples.  At the lake,   we always catch up where we've left  off - its like a fabulous pajama party.  It was one of my most favorite weekends this summer.  

  

I'm always so happy to cook when I'm home.  I don't know if I'd really experiment at the lake for just myself (although I did go on that salsa marathon recently), but I enjoy doing so for The Husband and I, he's like my lab rat.  He is always forthright in saying what he likes, and I can't seem to go wrong.  It's wonderful to sit and break bread with someone you love.  Having dinner alone is one thing I dislike about being at the lake, although it's not so bad, and I do make a point of good, clean, and tasty dishes.  

Last week when I got home I made a veal stew  It was truly delicious.  I've seen how Bouquet Garni is used in many European dishes, and I was wanting to try this technique for a long time.  For this recipe I used thyme and rosemary.  I took sprigs from my plants and tied them together with baker's twine.  It flavors the broth and you then remove it at the end.  I was so proud of myself in spite of how easily it is done.  You can find the recipe here.  The only changes I made were increasing the flour, the dish was a bit too watery.  

I don't have any recipes for you in this post, but I do have some things to share.  I had a ton of fresh vegetables that I brought home from the lake.  I wanted to use them up. I always love a good stir fry, and this is one great way to utilize those veggies that are still lingering before your next shopping day.  Don't get me wrong-never use vegetables past their prime, you simply won't do the recipe justice.  I simply tote food back and forth from the lake so nothing goes bad.  And then I use it in omelets, soups, stews, salads...anything I can come up with. 

Long story short:  I had a market tote filled with gorgeous carrots, broccoli, zucchini and onions.  I knew a stir fry was a must.  Most times I have a package of seasonings from the grocery store, or a bottled sauce from the Asian aisle.  Panda Express makes a Kung Pao sauce that is outstanding.  You do have to factor in the preservatives in these store bought items as well as heavy duty sodium, so it was a good thing I had to do a little extra work.  I had nothing, so I went to Pinterest.  I'm so sorry I didn't get a photo of the finished dish, but I swear, it was the BEST stir fry I've ever made.  Of course, I switched everything all around.  The recipe didn't have quite enough of that saltiness that you usually get from the soy sauce.  I also thought it needed fresh ginger, rather than dried and ground - I always have a big knob in the freezer and it keeps forever.  So here is my revised recipe for a stir fry sauce, and a bit about how I made mine.   

Sauce for Stir Fry Veggies and Meat

3 T brown sugar 
3 T soy sauce
1 1/2 T Balsamic vinegar (or white)
1 T vegetable oil
1 T and 1 t sesame oil, divided
1 T fresh ground ginger or 1/4 dried
Pinch of red pepper flakes.

Combine all ingredients, but for the teaspoon of sesame oil and the vegetable oil.  Use these oils to stir fry your meat and veggies in.  

When I stir fry and use meat, I cut it uniformly, and sauté it over high heat.  Use veggie or canola oil, olive oil does not heat to the degree you need to get your meat and vegetables seared and still juicy.  I then remove the meat and start the veggies.  Some vegetables are more dense than others.  When I cut carrots matchstick style, they are still pretty tough, so I start those first, then move on to the softer peppers and onions, and then if you have squash or anything leafy (I love Bok Choy), add that the last minute or so.  Add your meat back into the hot pan and pour your sauce over.  Toss constantly until incorporated and heated through.  Serve with your favorite rice.  

My second dilemma came when I bought fresh pork chops on sale and just wanted to do something nice with them  They were so thick and I really wanted to enhance the flavor but not overwhelm.  One of the things I really love to play around with is making meat rubs from dried herbs and spices.  Sometimes I think I might as well just triple the ingredients and store it for other uses, but actually, you can do this so quickly and you can switch or omit anything you want, anytime you want.  What I put together for these chops brought out the best in them, and made a nice crisp coating which kept the meat juicy.  Here is my little concoction:

1 1/2 t salt
1 t pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t onion powder
1 t oregano
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t paprika

Mix together well.  Do NOT be afraid of the cinnamon, trust me, it is superb.  This was sufficient for 2 large chops.  Use it on meats or veggies.  I dry the meat thoroughly with a paper towel - never try to put anything in oil even slightly damp.  Press the spices in with your fingertips or the side of your tongs.  I sear the chops on both sides and then finish them off in a 350 degree oven until they register 145 degrees inside.  

For veggies,  I use this mixed spiced rub to toss with olive oil, a tablespoon (or whatever fits the bill).  You can add the spices to oil and vinegar for a tasty vinaigrette, and then use the vinaigrette on any type of meat or seafood.  Mixed with olive oil it makes for a great dipping mix for good crusty bread.  Use it on your submarine sandwiches.  If you've made rubs before and want to contribute ideas, let me know!


*******

Oh, goodness.  This post was started two days ago!  I don't know if I'm coming or going.  I was patting myself on the back for getting down to business earlier than I normally do on my blog.  I seem to have so much going on during the day that I leave my work for evening.  And then I'm tired and can't bear to look at this screen one more second.  

Now that our new porch, sidewalk and driveway are in, I began to get quotes on landscaping.  I was getting really frustrated for a number of reasons; the high cost, and the lack of experience ("You pick out your plants and we'll pop them in.") for example.  Grrrrrrrr...

I finally found a company operated by a woman, and she really knows her stuff.  She has a great eye for design, and knows just how large bushes and such grow, and just how many of each one we'd need to fill my space along the exterior of my home.  We decided to try to save the existing lawn.  I had thought sod would be the best choice, but I learned from several sources that an established lawn, albeit sad looking, is a winner over brand new sod that undoubtedly goes into transplant shock.  

So...tomorrow I have a painter coming to do my shutters and a peak over the front door.  I chose a deep olive-like green.  I'll sneak out early and get a 'before' shot, but hang on to your hats, things are looking bad out there!  And then the planting starts Thursday.  I was ready to go to the lake, and I totally trust The Husband to take care of the watering, but this has been my baby, so I'm going to stay here as long as I can before I go cray cray.  

I hope I've got you all caught up to date.  At least in my life.  Take care and have a good week, I hope you stay cool.

Jane x





Tuesday, September 12, 2017

FULL DAYS



Hello friends!  I hope all of you are doing well.  I know so many bloggers in Texas, Florida and Georgia, and my heart goes out to all of you.  In this house we have been following CNN and MSNBC relentlessly.  We are on edge.  I awake in the middle of the night and check news alerts on my cell phone, which I keep under my pillow.  I normally want to be available for family, but in this case, I felt the erratic path of Irma bothering me 24/7. 

 In my own small way I try to help.  As I do in December with the Salvation Army volunteers-who stand in the freezing cold- I keep a few dollars tucked in my wallet to give to these goodhearted souls.  In the last few days as I went from the grocery store, to the drugstore, to the gas station...any place with a check out, I saw donation buckets provided by the Red Cross.  I started to save up those dollar bills again in my wallet and pockets.  Not much, but if you shop like I do, it does make a little dent.  

I'm home from the lake for a week or so.  I was on Facebook recently and found a page for my lake with some really spectacular pictures.  I shared this one on Instagram.  See the island in the middle?  100 homes on that little paradise.  A ferry shuttles islanders and their cars back and forth.  It gives you a sense of scope as to how this is one of the very largest lakes in Southwest Michigan.  Our home is situated on a bay that would be in the upper left side of this photo going way into that narrow inlet.  We face north so I can stand on the balcony off of our bedroom and see this gorgeous sunset most summer evenings.  




We had a great group at the lake for Labor Day weekend.  Family.  Can't say enough.  We really missed those who couldn't make it.  That's always going to happen, but it leaves a little sense of longing that time passes so quickly and we need to grab these moments together.  Believe it or not, all of the family here were able to stay at the house-sometimes we've had to enlist accommodations from the nearest motel!  

We did the traditional burgers on the grill, a lot of boat rides, sitting on the beach, snacking on yummy apps on the patio, adventure rides on the wave runners, and serene paddling on the kayaks.   We recently scored paddle boards on sale.  They look like surf boards but you stand or kneel on them and use one paddle to maneuver your way about.  It's a totally intense balancing act with a lot of falls in the water (for the young and lithe), and a great core workout.  I've yet to find out, of course.  



The University of Notre Dame is about a half hour southwest of us (we are just over the Indiana/Michigan border, or Michiana).  It makes the home games a bit more exciting.  For some reason we watch the games in the Summerhouse (guest house) most times.  The open windows and ceiling fan make for a perfect spot.  Some cold brews and comfy chairs, and we are happy campers.  Miss Madelyn and her daddy Mike are true fans as you can see.  And we won this game!  Go Irish!



And speaking of family and grandchildren, here is Elsie today on her first day of school.  Doesn't she look all grown up?  And that precious little baby next to her is Patricia Mae, or Patsy, who arrived at the end of May in a whirlwind of pre-summer chaos.  As we get less busy, I'll try to get more pictures in whenever I can.  They are cuties! 




I have a guy fixing and tuck pointing our huge stone chimney(at the lake) on the roof.  I was waking up every morning at 7:00 a.m. to thuds and banging on the roof just over my bedroom.  I'd stagger outside in my PJ's, hair all over, eyes squinting in the morning sun, and grouchy as ever as I took the dogs out to do their thing.  Even with working in the hot sun on the roof for eight hours a day, he'd always called down, "Good morning!"  Ouch.  And he would bring tomatoes. My enthusiastic, "Thank-you", seemed to encourage more tomato offerings.  At one point I had twenty-one in all shapes and sizes.   

I couldn't bear to waste them.  Gardening, and I know from experience, is a matter of hard work, love and hope, and finally, gratefulness.  Knowing people enjoy the fruits of your labor is so, so gratifying.  

Some days my activities at the lake run the gamut of A to B.  I went to the grocery one day and bought onions, peppers, cilantro, and limes.  Chop, chop, chop.  I don't usually puree my salsa, I like it chunky and fresh.  You can definitely puree it in a blender or food processor but I'd check out a recipe for it.  Here's mine:

10 tomatoes, any type or size, chopped small
1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped small
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped very small
1 red onion, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 bunch green onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed and chopped
1 T ground cumin
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice each tomato in half, scoop out the seeds, and let drain, cut side down on a paper towel while you prepare the other ingredients. Chop the tomatoes and combine all in a large bowl and taste for seasoning.  If you want the mixture more spicy, use the seeds of the jalapeño or add a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Let the salsa chill in your refrigerator for at least 4 hours.  Stir and strain off excess  liquid.  Adjust seasonings to taste. Store in jars or plastic containers for up to a week.  Once open, use within 3 days. 

You can add or delete a lot of things to this salsa.  My daughter likes corn kernels.  I like to add black beans.  And...some like it hot!  Salsa is very good but I also like to top my scrambled eggs with a few spoonfuls.  You can add some to a tossed salad, or make Bruschetta on thick bread.  Sauté it with fresh shrimp, or top your grilled fish with a scoop.  Maybe you just can't have enough tomatoes.  



We went to a party yesterday and I always try to volunteer an appetizer.  I stared into my fridge at the nine jars of salsa, and then I spied 2 large balls of fresh mozzarella, this was all going to go to waste.  I checked my best friend Google and I was inspired to use won ton wrappers to make cute little cups to hold the salsa (or anything else desired...chicken salad, chili topped with cheese, French onion dip topped with crushed potato chips.  Okay, the last one was my invention.  But really, the ideas are endless.  The best thing about the baked won ton wrappers is that they don't get soggy.  So...

Using a regular size muffin pan, press won ton wrappers in each to make a cup sort of shape.  Spray with vegetable oil and bake at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes until lightly browned. Remove and let cool completely.  Add your salsa and a slice of fresh mozzarella.  I got fancy and sliced the cheese very thin.  I then used a teeny little cookie cutter to make little flowers shapes (or clouds as I envision), and placed them on top.  Voila, you have turned tomatoes into salsa; totally overdone, overused and hopefully not boring anymore.  



I specifically came home from the lake to see my dermatologist, Dr. Lio.  He had been treating me for over a year for an auto immune disease that has caused me to have severe atopic dermatitis, or eczema.  It's such a long story and I know most of you may have  forgotten the long road I've been on.  I'll abbreviate my recent treatment:  I started a new medication in June, which was just approved by the FDA in March.  I give myself injections every other week.  If you hate getting shots, try giving yourself one.  You can't close your eyes.  For some, the results and relief is immediate.  I'm plugging along, hoping my skin will heal or start to heal soon.  The side effects however, are something I always manage to experience; dry itchy eyes, rash-like hives around my mouth, and hair falling out like crazy.  When I saw my doctor on Friday, he was pretty shocked that I still had open sores on my arms and legs.  The worst area is below my knees on each leg.  He wrapped them up in gauze and then bandages after applying three topical medications.  I wore these for three days and I was feeling and looking a lot better Monday night.  I also started a two day per week dose of the  medication that caused me to be so physically ill last winter.  I have to be vigilant in staying away from anyone sick and contagious.  I'm really hoping taking it less will keep me from feeling so sick to my stomach as it did in the past.   





I usually go to my doctor appointments by myself, but The Husband was free and went with.  The best part was finding this restaurant right around the corner.  It had a great Northside vibe, bustling and loud, and the diner style menu had eclectic versions of our typical morning fare.  The Husband had the Donut French Toast, and I had the Morning After Tacos.  I now have a place to go after my appointments to cheer me up.  Do you ever eat in restaurants alone?  I don't have a problem.  I don't even hide behind a book or newspaper.  But maybe I'll bring my laptop-I can always use the time to catch up on writing.  





I wanted to share these pillows I just received from my favorite new Etsy shop, With Lavender And Grace.  I simply love the natural fabric, how well made they are, and the quotes.  You might remember me sharing ones that I bought for the lakehouse, Beach Shack and Simplify.  This is turning into an obsession!  But I wanted to share the link with all of you.

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And here I am.  We celebrated my nephew's birthday at a family party yesterday, and today I did mindless chores that could be done now or later; a car wash, trip to Petco for Milo's arthritis meds, some grocery shopping, pharmacy pickup, and some backyard clean up. 

No-I'm not a whirling dervish.  Tomorrow I may be totally unmotivated and sit in front of my laptop trying to find ideas for my columns.  I may take a looooong nap.  But sharing with you, my friends, makes me take a good look at my crazy but full life.  I endlessly try to come up with ways to better organize my time, set goals, get projects done, maybe go off on little vacation with The Husband.  Dividing my time between houses is so gratifying but I often feel like I'm stretched thin.  I think fall is going to be much more easy.  I think I'm going to have more moments to be in that moment.  If not, well, you'll know. ;-D

Jane x

Monday, August 28, 2017

AS SUMMER WINDS UP...


Hello, friends!  Time is flying but I r-e-f-u-s-e to say the same over-said words, "Summer has flown by!"  Time flies and it drags.  I'm finding that living in the moment doesn't necessarily make things slow down, but it gives me the satisfaction that I'm moving, doing, being and feeling.  I used to really be hard on myself for things like sleeping late; it's a luxury I didn't always have, and sometimes when the sun has been up for a while and the dogs are ready to start their day, I feel I've wasted some quality time.  Truth is, I can pack a lot into a day.  I multi-task, but not in a frenzied way.  I'm just as focused working in the early evening as I am the early morning.  But I've made changes.  I really like  having my coffee in the rocker at 7:00 a.m., watching the birds flying to and fro around the feeder.  Maybe I'm becoming a day person.  So if my summer is "flying by," I've been cruising with it. 


Emily and I made a trip to HomeGoods last week when I was home a few days and it was so fun.  I miss that when I'm gone.  That little Madelyn is sitting up, so she can sit in the front of a cart.  She's so fun to be with.  She's crawling and pulling herself up to stand while holding on to something.  I'm sure she will be walking soon.  She's such a joy.  Anyway-I wanted a few things for the lakehouse.  In the past, other than for the 4th of July, I have never decorated, as we don't spend a lot of time there in the winter.  I've never felt the desire to switch things around much.  I thought of how my Great room is mostly coastal blues and whites, and decided I'd just deepen things to navy and toss in some orange and rust for fall.  I don't know if it was serendipity or that I was onto a popular idea, but I found throws and pillows in just the colors I had thought of.  I also picked out some fall candles.   



I have quite a bit of fall decorations stored away, and last year I never even opened the bins.  I had bought some pumpkins and gourds and used them inside, and never felt like adding to it.  Now I'm excited to bring some of those cute little pieces to the lake.  I'm hoping to get some Autumn going without cluttering.  Hmmmmmm...



If you follow me on Instagram, and beware - you get a more blow by blow version of my life -I was invited to a luau at the lake by way of an invitation hanging from the side mirror of my car.  It was a cute pineapple cut out attached to a lei with the date, time and place.  I had absolutely no idea who it was.  Turns out a very nice woman across our little cove was inviting all of us living on it to a Hawaiian themed party.  We signed a guest book as a way for neighbors to contact us, there were additional lei's for the men, and flowers with clips for the ladies to wear in their hair.  The decorations were perfect, Hawaiian lanterns and thatched umbrella's over tables.  We played a few silly games which made us loosen up and get to know neighbors who had been around us all along.  Karaoke, dancing, and a photo booth (complete with a box full of props like feather boas and fancy hats) had us hysterical.  


Names have been changed to protect the not so innocent.  And that is not me!


Jane's Hawaiian Salad

There's a good possibility that I'm the only person in the world who has not made Hawaiian Salad.  When we were invited to the Luau I thought it was a novel, if not obvious idea.  And I couldn't believe I could like any food with marshmallows in it.  I searched and found a recipe I liked and tweaked it a bit.  I'm sure there are a zillion ways to make this and let me know what you do differently.  Daughter Emily uses a can of fruit cocktail in place of my fruit and the cherries make it colorful.  

I may be late in the game as we are headed into cooler weather but I wanted to share, and it may be something you'd like to make if you are having a Labor Day bash!

16 oz. bag of mini marshmallows
11 oz can of Mandarin orange segments, drained
8 oz. pineapple chunks, drained
1 medium banana, sliced
1 c. flaked coconut
1/2 c. sour cream
1 c. whipped topping.
Sprinkle of cinnamon 

Mix the first six ingredients together gently but thoroughly.  Fold in the whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Chill at least 2 hours.  




Back home two weekends ago, The Husband and I went to see Idina Menzel.  What a wonderful show!  Her voice is amazing and the show seemed more like a musical than concert.  She has a sparkling personality but she's no diva, she never made a change of clothes and there wasn't a glitzy stage setting.  There were a lot of children in the audience dressed up as Elsa from Frozen.  When Menzel sang "Let it Go," from the Disney movie, she encouraged the children to come on stage.  So many of them knew every word to the song, and it was a delight to hear them sing.  This was one of the best birthday presents from The Husband.  


We stayed at the Knickerbocker Hotel as we usually do as it's in the heart of the Gold Coast and Magnificent Mile in Chicago.  We were running late, so there was no shopping.  I had heard of a restaurant called Fig & Olive and made reservations days before.  It exceeded our expectations.  We ate on the rooftop and the weather was absolutely perfect.  I managed to remember to take a snap of our appetizer, prosciutto and melon on arugula with some sort of vinaigrette.  Whipped goat cheese was there to smear on these tasty bites.  For dessert I had chocolate pots de creme for the very first time and I was beside myself!  It was a fantastic weekend.



Sometimes I feel spread so thin between the two houses.  In the city we had a new driveway and porch done a few weeks ago.  The sidewalk will be paver stones, so it's a separate job yet unfinished. Then we have landscaping and sod, as well as new paint on the shutters and peak.  I also have to pick out plants, shrubs, bushes and then exterior light fixtures.  I'm going crazy.

At the lake we have a mason patching up our huge stone chimney.  Our paver patio, which is quite large, has become buckled due to the chipmunks burrowing.  We have to get an exterminator and then have it redone.  Our storm doors were ruined by the heavy winds that caused them to bang open when we weren't there.  And sadly, I'm finding exterior damage to the house and guest house from the moist lake air and the brutal winters.  I start to feel so content that inside my home I have everything I could ever want, and then I take a walk around the property and I'm overwhelmed with the work that's needed, as well as the cost.  You just have to do what you can and keep chugging along.  

So other things going on in Blondieville:

I have some sort of head and chest cold and terrible sore throat - maybe strep?  I'm just napping a lot and taking Advil.  Had to miss watching Miss M today.  Sniff.  

Started watching the short movie series on USA, The Sinner, with Jessica Biel and Bill Pullman.  It's very dark but compelling.  I have one more episode to go.  Also catching a few Housewife shows, and Hallmark summer movies.  I heard there will be 132 Hallmark Christmas movies this year.  Oh, how will I get anything done?  I've seen a few specials on Princess Diana as we come upon the twentieth anniversary of her death.  And I got roped into watching the TLC American Murder Mystery: The Scott Peterson story.  This one I could never watch alone.  Or at at least at the lake when I'm alone.

I wish I could say I was reading something interesting but actually I'm poring over The Best Punctuation Book, Period.  What I've been thinking and now pretty much know for sure, there a very few rules for writing in this day and age.  There are particular editing styles and there is a specific for news media and business style writing.  It's quite interesting and although I've plugged along on my blog for many years, I can't afford mistakes when writing professionally.  And as far as the column writing goes...I'm coming along well, trying to stay two weeks ahead of due dates.  

We are preparing for Labor Day and a houseful of guests.  A manageable amount which makes me happy as it doesn't turn out to be an assembly line of meals.  I'd like to try a few new side dishes.  

Do you have holiday plans?

Like all of you, my heart goes out to the devastation going on in Texas and Louisiana.  Please continue to pray and lend support in any way you can.

I'll be back soon!

Jane 



Friday, August 4, 2017

SLOW LIFE


Happy August (or is it already September?).  I feel like we simply can't be winding down this fast.  I actually have two clematis I haven't planted.  I'm not even worried about enjoying their pretty vines and flowers, I need to get them in the ground pronto before a frost shows up!  I didn't go crazy with potted plants this summer.  Just three along walls that surround our patio, like above, and a few here and there you can see from the beach.  I found these blue pots at Dollar General in town.  They were $3.00 each. You would never know they are plastic.  I love clay but it dries plants out so fast.   I'll use plastic pots that you mostly see from afar like I do faux flowers.    

I am still loving my bird feeders.  I had been seeing baby cardinals every day and then finally the father showed up in all of his bright red splendor.  Mama is probably at home sitting on more eggs, poor girl.  I adore the nuthatches.  They love the sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  They scurry up the trunk of the tree the feeders hangs from and bang the seed against the bark to break it.  Just so fun to watch.  I was at Lowe's yesterday and couldn't help but look at the wildlife area.  I decided to buy a suet feeder.  I'm excited to hang it.  I don't know a whole heck of a lot about them-I'm hoping I don't attract coyotes or raccoons.   I'll do some research but feel free to chime in on your experience with them.


These flowers were a gift from The Husband.  He surprised me yesterday afternoon by driving up from Chicago and  knocking on the door with this bouquet and the makings for a lobster and crab dinner, complete with salad fixings and a baguette.  He's such a sweetheart.  We really do miss each other but talk on the phone every evening and text throughout the day...even in the middle of the night if one of us can't sleep.  It's a different life from what we've known for thirty years but we are enjoying navigating and exploring independently.  I really and truly needed to learn to fall back on myself, worry and tend to my own needs instead of others, and devote my time when and where I wanted it.  I love that saying, "Don't just do something, sit there!"  I'm learning...finally.  




I had to cut back my climbing rose but I still have the little bit you see at the bottom.  Everything was neglected for two summers and I'm really surprised I have what I have.  The daisies are usually very lush and a few summers ago this bed was so crowded I thought I needed to divide them.  This is a vintage trellis I found at a barn sale somewhere around here long ago.  It's a beauty.  It's attached to our shed which I can see from every angle of the patio and yard, as well as from the Great room inside.  So c'mon roses, grow!



We have an abundance of mourning doves all around.  They love to make their nests in any sort of crevice they can.  I must have, at minimum, three right now that have come since an earlier clutch left. This little one was just below a nest on the walkway off my patio.  I think it was kicked out, and  a day or two later the nest was empty.  And this afternoon I happened to notice a new mama (or papa) sitting in a nest that belonged to robins two weeks ago.  Nests For Rent:  Call Blondie at 1-800-FOR-BIRDS.




Miss Madelyn had her first professional photo session and they were all taken outside in the early evening.  Each and every picture is a keeper.  She is always so happy and animated; she simply can't take a bad picture.  I have a new one on my sidebar if you noticed.  I also have some on my Instagram page, as well as a few videos.  I need to get some pics of the newer grandkids, they are cuties, too, and growing so fast.    



I wrote my last newspaper column with a focus on summertime appetizers.  Those which don't have to be hot or reheated.  Refreshing and easy to make.  My grocery store carries this mango guacamole at a high price for a small amount, yet it is ridiculously easy to make.  I fiddled with this and made a lot of changes, but the original photo is from Pinterest.

Fresh Mango Guacamole

4 avocados, pitted and peeled
1 lime, juiced
1 cup fresh or canned mango, diced
1/2 cup each: red pepper diced small, green onion and tomato
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 cloves minced garlic
S & P to taste.  

Mash the avocados in a large bowl leaving some chunky bits.  Add the remaining ingredients and fold gently to combine.  Chill at least one hour and serve with tortilla chip.  If not serving right away, keep the pit of one avocado in the mixture to keep it from discoloring.  Same for leftovers.  

*****

My reading habits are improving thanks to a loose schedule.  Gardening and doing not much of anything with coffee and pups in the morning, writing in the early afternoon, errands and more time outdoors late afternoon, reading in the early evening and before lights out in bed.  Blogging is creeping in here and there and I hope many of you see that I'm popping in more.

I just read a great book called The Widower's Wife, by Cate Holahan.  It's a murder/suspense novel and had me hanging at the end of each chapter.  I couldn't have read it in one or two sittings if I had wanted to, so it was really exciting to open it up when I could.  I highly recommend it.  I think I found it at Target.  I have another suspense novel on the coffee table but I wanted a fun beach read (and maybe on the beach!), so I have an oldie by Mary Kay Andrews called Ladies Night.  One chapter in it sounds very light and funny.  

I'm up in the loft once it gets dark doing a little blogging while switching back and forth on the TV from CNN to MSNBC to Bravo.  Ha!  That's me...a paradox.  Hysteria is definitely a reoccurring theme, though.

The weather has been hot and humid a lot since I came up about ten days ago but it usually cools off by early evening and then the dogs and I like to have a little time on the patio with the sun setting in the west.  They are so relaxed here.  Maybe it's the fresh country air or the slow life, I'm not sure.  We have a routine that is so dependable for them that I think they need and want in their older years.  Maybe me, too. 

Some of my neighbors were here this past week on vacations and it was fun to see and talk to people which usually doesn't happen except weekends.  And this week was our County Fair.  I have such warm memories of The Husband and I taking the kids, watching the rodeo clowns and eating Elephant Ears.  I once had an entry in the cooking contest and came in 2nd Place.  I made Chicken Divan, which one of the judges couldn't pronounce.  The 1st place prize went to a sweet lady for her apple pie.  A very valuable lesson...do your best and don't try to impress.    

I finished up my front porch this week with seat cushions, pillows, and some candles and such for the little coffee table.  I have sort of a nautical red, white and blue theme going.  Today I picked up some plants to liven things up.  I'll get some snaps soon.  The Husband and I have agreed that the wisteria is really taking a toll on the house.  It's invasive and strong.  We are going to have to consult with an expert on how to remove it.  If I ever did it again it would be on something made of iron or brick.  Then again, the ivy at my Chicago home ate around windows into the house, as well as under the gutters through the roof.  Caution people...caution.

I'm off.  We've already had our seafood dinner now and that darn guy also brought mini Key Lime pies.  I'm going to have to get out for a good amount of exercise tomorrow.  After rain, gloom and temps in the low 60's today, tomorrow is supposed to be 80 and sunny.  Yay!  



See you all soon!

Jane xxx