Friday, November 20, 2015


Hello, everyone.  I have had a really quiet week since I last wrote.  I'm in the process of trying to organize a room I have downstairs that holds well, everything under the sun.  It's going to be a very, very long project but I'm not trying to set any world records.  As I weed through my Christmas stuff, I bring a little bit upstairs to get some holiday decorating going on in rooms we don't use so much.  I get sort of anxious to take things down on December 26th because I'm not only bored with it but tired of cleaning around it.  I actually keep these rooms very simple, some holiday pillows and throws and some little vignettes and poinsettias here and there.  I have white slip covered furniture in my family room so the bright colors really pop this time of year.  My daughter Abby spends a lot of time here during the holidays when school is out so the family room is her favorite spot.  So, I took some of my holiday throws (and clean tablecloths) out of storage and gave them a little fluff in the dryer and Milo decided there should be no postponement whatsoever in bringing on the holidays!

I start off every Christmas season feeling over confident when I've actually purchased a few gifts.  And I  give myself a super big pat on the back that I've actually wrapped them.  Oh, how we fool ourselves.  By Christmas Eve I have shopping bags all over the place and I'm tossing gifts into little bags with a few wads of tissue paper and then slapping bows on them!  Overconfidence is not always a good thing.

Monday I got to work on my newspaper column.  I really wanted to do something special for the holidays.  There is usually some extra space as some of the advertisements go down in the winter months considering they are usually for watercraft dealers, landscaping, dock installments...just a lot of things related to summer lake life.  I don't count my words so I'm assuming it's going to be taking up a lot of room.  I proofread everything about 5 times because once I email it to the editor, there is no way to correct anything.  I think I will do a blog post with the December column so you can see what sort of drivel I write about. :)

I also got to work on some serious exercise.  I read an article a few weeks ago that screamed, "9 weeks until Christmas and yes, you have time to get in shape!"  Silly but I needed a little push to get moving.  I get so sluggish once the weather gets cold.  So I've started using my 5 pound weights and also lay on the floor doing crunches and leg lifts, just about 1/2 hour a day.  And I had ordered this stair stepper thingy from Amazon.  If you've ever heard of step aerobics, this is what I'm doing at home.  At this point I don't want to renew my gym membership until after the New Year.  If I can be consistent at home, then I know I won't go for a few weeks and then slack of.  So I ordered the step thing from Amazon and it came Wednesday.  It's so cool.  You just step up and down on it and you get a much better workout then you would by walking.  I also use my weights in my hands to get more bang for the buck. That gets the old heart pumping.  Wow!  What a workout, I was so sore yesterday.  5 more weeks til Christmas...

I've actually been a sort of homebody for most of the week.  I did run out to get a carwash yesterday in spite of snow in the forecast.  We have such cold winters with rainy, snowy, slushy weather that I thought it would be a good time to get everything cleaned and shined up.  And I had my oil changed last week so I feel like I'm on top of things.    

I love my holiday movies, you all know that,  and I think The Husband actually likes to hear the holiday music I have playing non stop, even this early.  Last Saturday I forced him to sit down in the den with me (I bribed him by opening up a bottle of Cabernet and making a little tray of cheese and crackers) to watch Love Actually.  He was so into it!  I've seen it at least 5 times and it was so great to see him laughing and smiling and loving all the different scenarios going on.  He actually said he wants to watch it again as he was a little confused by who was who and how they were related.  Have you seen it?  What's your favorite story line?  I think my favorite is the growing attraction and then love between the writer (Colin Firth) and the Portuguese  housekeeper.  I'm a hopeless romantic.  Next---The Holiday.

The lake guest house/patio, January 2015

The weather people here in Chicago have been warning us about a huge snowstorm that was to have started about a hour ago, it's coming down but not really heavy.  The Husband is heading up to the lake tomorrow to finalize a few things on the house repair/renovation.  Yes, they are starting next week!  It's supposed to be a 5-6 month project but I'm praying the dust has settled a little and we at least have a bedroom and bathroom so we can start going up in April.  I'm going to have a lot of work  in my gardens and with the landscaping work I did in the front of the house during the summer of 2014.  It will be fun though, I love to be outdoors.  I imagine the wisteria has eaten the front porch and balcony by now.  And we have new neighbors.  Two homes just to the right of ours sold and I'm really excited to meet everyone.  The house right next door is a couple from Illinois, they are both teachers, or so I've heard.  I wonder if they have dogs for Milo to romp with?  And then the house to the right of them is a couple with 4 young children.  I think we are going to have a great summer.

I won a giveaway that Debra from Common Ground hosted recently.  These gorgeous velvet pumpkins were handmade by Becky of Timewashed.  The packaging was so cute, I left two of them in the pretty bags tied with jute for you to see.  And she included the sweetest card.  What a great Etsy shop she has, go have a peek.  Thank you, Debra and Becky! :)

Next Saturday The Husband and I are off to Cedarburg, Wisconsin to spend a weekend with my longtime blogger friend Cindy (Applestone Cottage) and her husband, Dan.  I don't even consider her a blogger friend, she's a true blue friend who I've grown very close to.  We've been meeting up since 2009 and this is a picture of us together on the very day we first met six years ago (look at my bangs!).  We meet all over the place, this was in Galena, Illinois, a very picturesque little town near the Illinois/Iowa border.  We've also met up in places like Lake Geneva, WI., Madison, Door County, WI. (just this past summer), and she and Dan also came to the lakehouse a few years ago and that was a drive of six hours for them.  We always have a great time and now we're going to get together twice a year.  

Today I went grocery shopping, I wanted to get it done so I didn't have to deal with 7 inches of snow in the parking lot tomorrow.  And then I couldn't help but grab my 22 pound turkey and some of the items I needed for side dishes and desserts.  I seriously don't know how I fit it all in the cart.  Once I got home I cleaned out the fridge to make room for everything and scoured ever shelf and bin.  I have so much food shoved in and balanced precariously, if you want something in the back you have to take about 20 things out to get to it!  I'm always more content when I know I have that turkey though.  Is that weird?

Abby will be on break from work next week and we have plans to go shopping at one of our favorite suburban outdoor malls.  It's done up like a little town with cobblestone streets, lampposts and at Christmastime, holiday music comes from speakers hidden somewhere.  I really love this place when I start my shopping.  

I don't know if I'll have a chance to post before Thursday so I want to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I hope you are surrounded by all of your loved ones giving thanks for a great abundance of food, family and friends.  

Jane xxx

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Thanksgiving 2014

We all have our minds on Thanksgiving, right?  Or maybe that nagging little notion in our head that we should pull out a notepad and make a grocery list.  Or just continue to watch Hallmark movies and pretend it's December 1.  As I write I'm watching Christmas With Holly (which I give up a big thumbs up to), and not having a whole lot of focus on Thanksgiving plans.  Whether I do or not, I will stress out no matter.  It's a given and nothing's going to change, so why not just watch a little mindless happy TV while the world turns?

I've taken some of the craziness out of this holiday by just sticking with the pretty little table I did last year.  And I think I'll have a very simple centerpiece although from this photo it's hard to see what I had then.  A mystery for all of us I guess! lol!  I have some ideas I've Pinned and you can find them on my boards (click the Pinterest icon on my sidebar) under Fall.  I'm looking for simple and small, I do not have a huge long harvest table that seats 18.  So if you're in my boat, look at some of these innovative and inspiring  ideas.  

Time has a way of slowing down on cold afternoons when the wind is howling outside and you have that lull after lunch and before you need to start dinner.  Friday I made a fire about 4 p.m.  I made a cup of my favorite tea, an organic green blend with lemon and spices such as cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Wow, so good!  And then the news about what happened in Paris came on.  I no longer felt warm and cozy--how fast our world can change.  I trust we are all praying.  

I mentioned in my last post that I was actually going to try to be crafty (and crafty to me is getting up at 10:00 a.m., making the bed as soon as my feet hit the floor so that anyone who pops in doesn't think I just rolled out of it).  So the real deal is, it's a very, very difficult sort of thing for me.  I'm all thumbs and since I'm a perfectionist at heart, I give up easily with my high expectations.  So I made this little shadow box thingy for my son and his new wife, a Christmas present.  The box itself was so terribly ugly I painted it with leftover chalk paint, distressed it a bit and lined it with vintage sheet music.  I was flipping through a book of piano tunes from the good 'ol days that I had, trying to find something romantic and appropriate should anyone decide to scrutinize the background.  I became a bit discouraged and then just started to laugh hysterically over what I was seeing.  For example:  Cheatin' On Me, Hard Hearted Hannah, How Many Hearts Have You Broken, I Wish I had My Old Girl Back Again.  Yikes!!!  This is for a newlywed couple!  I ended up using a page from Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat.  The best I could do.  The roses are dried and from the wedding bouquets.  What do you think?  Is it too foo foo?  I don't expect them to hang it above their fireplace mantel or anything but I hope it's special.  :)

I did a little bit of shopping last week with Emily at Marshall's for Christmas decor for my home.  I was really really pleased with how focused and controlled I was about what I purchased.  Many of you must know by now how obsessed I am when it comes to shopping but I'm not nuts and I am actually quite savvy.  I have an abundance of holiday treasures but I wanted to add to an idea I had brewing in my head of a sort of 'Winter Wonderland" theme for the mantel.  And I have been spreading Christmas throughout the house in the past few years so I can use everything I've accumulated in the past thirty years, and that's so a long time so you know what I mean.  Each and every room gets a touch of holiday cheer now, even the bathrooms and office.  Who doesn't love a soft cushy pillow or bright throw to curl up with?  I try to be sensible and get my run for my money.   I'm in love with these two cute pillows I found---$16 dollars?  This is simply not something you can pass up.  

And one cannot live on holiday decorations alone.  The shoe aisles will always call my name.  These were a real necessity.  Truly.  I wore them the other day and they are really comfy and looked quite good with long skinny jeans and a big sweater.  Nothing makes you feel better than when you imagine yourself looking good.  And I stress the 'imagine' part.  

I dropped in on Emily the other morning for coffee.  She and Mike bought their house with a leap of faith a month before they were married just over 2 years ago.  An old home in the city with a lot of redoing just before they bought.  She has made her signature mark in every bit of it.  Call me partial but she has been able to make each and every room beautiful, cozy and a reflection of her taste.  Sometimes I do want to kill her though...I've wanted this ladder of hers for such a long time.  It's in a corner of her kitchen near the door that leads downstairs to the laundry and storage.  It's a great use of this space, who needs an open door and stairwell to look at?  Love the tea towels and well, someday when she's not home I'm going to sneak in and steal it.  By the way, she found it at a great shop that Kris from Junk Chic Cottage took us to when we visited a few years ago.  Kris lives about an hour from us in the northwestern suburbs of Illinois.  Do you know her?  What a great lady and she has a wonderful blog.  Emily and I had a such a good time that day.  And she scored that ladder, darn her!

I'm going to end with a recent picture of Elsie.  A classic.  Mary Clare keeps an album that goes out text-wise to all of our family.  Everyone can see the latest photos and add.  This is such a cool idea and we appreciate the updates so much--babies grow so fast.  This is an unbelievable shot I think, yet every time I see a picture of this precious little girl I want to frame it.  Thank you, MC. :)

Finally, the winner of the book, The Inspired Room by Melissa Michaels is June from Laughing With Angels.  I'll be sending an email off to her.  I wish I had a copy for everyone, that's the sort of part I don't like about giveaways.  Everyone deserves that little bit of excitement and a gift in the mail.  It's like Christmas...but don't get me started on that!

See you next week!

Jane x

Sunday, November 8, 2015


I was at a little grocery store the other day that's just around the corner.  It's nothing fancy--no Starbucks or huge bakery.   The floral department is very tiny.  I was so pleasantly surprised to find these really neat flowers.  Three bunches for $12.  I usually look for the biggest, fullest bouquets to make several vases from but these just intrigued me.  I cleared the huge dough bowl filled with apples and pears off the table, gave it a bit of polish and a different runner and I'm so happy with the simple look.

If you follow me on Instagram, I hope I don't sound too redundant...I posted this shot last night.  I can't remember the names of the other flowers but the yellow ones in the forefront are called Kangaroo Paw.  I love it!  Even The Husband was smiling as we looked at the yellow blooms.  Has anyone ever heard of this plant?  I hope these last a long while...maybe they can be dried.

And speaking of drying flowers, I saved the roses from some of the bouquets the girls carried in Jeff and Deirdre's wedding in August (I'm pretty sure neither of them read my blog so I can share this).  I found a shadow box at Michael's that I'm going to line with some old sheet music and display the roses inside.  A Christmas present, their first Christmas married and a little remembrance  of their wedding.  I'll share it once I find the time to work on it.  Remember, I'm not too crafty so I tend to not  want to jump into this sort of stuff!

Another pic I put on IG this morning.  The sun was making this room glow very early as if there could have been little fairies dancing and hiding out of sight in corners.  I just love this sort of filtered sunlight that comes in through my windows during autumn.  My living room, dining area and kitchen face east so this is the brightest place in my house in the morning and it's always a warm and wonderful spot in which  to relax with that first cup of coffee.  

I have had such a terrible time shaking off this upper respiratory thing in my head and chest.  Some days I feel better than others and when I feel energetic I want to take advantage of it.  Saturday morning I had an incredible urge to declutter, I think I wrote in my last post a bit about my frustration with all the stuff I have everywhere.  How does one store away treasures and pieces that call out their name (and very loudly) while out browsing?  I actually cleared a few things off those shelves, and that crazy ivy I bought 2 months ago is devouring my old cabinet so I really don't have much more room to clutter it up.  I stored away a few pillows and simplified the mantel and hearth which you can't see, and I'm feeling sort of good about it all.  And as I peeled away the layers I scrubbed sinks, disinfected counters and changed the sheets on the bed.  As I cleared off my dresser, nightstand and vanity, I tossed out old magazines and catalogs in the basket next to my bed.  I also, encouraged The Husband to clear off the top of his armoire.  He did a pretty spiffy job I might say.  

I made barbecued ribs for dinner with sweet potatoes and broccoli and for dessert we had vanilla yogurt with my good 'ol granola on top.  A great day and believe me, I was actually a bit sore this morning! 

If you remember me writing in my last post how Milo discovered my new Target bargain blanket, well...Layla got her revenge this week and has no plans to give it up.  I tried to soothe Milo's hurt feelings by putting a comfy throw on another chair but he was't having it.  He now skulks off to bed about 9:00 p.m. with The Husband.  Both are rascals and don't appreciate the abundance of cozy pillows and throws I make available.  Ingrates.  ;-)

I was going to write a post last night and lo and behold, I stumbled upon the Hallmark Channel and holiday movies are well underway.  I watched two in a row and right now I have another on.  I think these are older and the new ones will start in a week or two.  Nothing gets me in the mood for Christmas like watching these happily ever after movies.  

Speaking of television, I actually made a point of trying to follow a series as I've always been super envious of people who have watched entire seasons of shows like Mad Men, Downton Abby, Blacklist and the like.  So The Husband and I started to watch Blindspot which is on NBC Monday nights.  I think it's an excellent show and it gets great reviews.  Does anyone out there watch it?  If you can get the previous shows it would be well worth your time to catch up.  It's a drama involving the FBI, bad guys and good guys (who often turn into bad guys).  I haven't followed a series since Friends 10 years ago.  Seriously.  What can I say, I've always preferred reading for entertainment but television has me sort of mesmerized lately.  I'm easily distracted though so it is never on until after dinner.  

Today I had the urge to do something other than cleaning and laundry so I pulled out the flour and sugar and eggs and made some sugar cookies.  This was a different sort of recipe.  I had wanted to roll out the dough and use cookie cutters but as I was mixing it all up I couldn't help but see that the dough was really soft and sticky.  Comparing the recipe to a few others online I noticed that it involved much more butter and 2 eggs as opposed to 1.  So I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to have cute little leaf and apple shapes and ended up making little balls and flattening them out by pressing them with the bottom of a glass as shown in the recipe.  I was so pleasantly surprised when they came out of the oven crisp and buttery tasting, almost like shortbread.  The recipe is a keeper.  You can find it here

I'm going to wind up this post by saying that I'll keep the giveaway open for this wonderful book until my next post to give as many people as possible a chance to win.   I'm going to do the old 'throwing the names in a hat' or even better as I used to do with my giveaways in the past, close my eyes and run my finger down the comments stopping randomly.  With two posts and chances to win, I'll pull one of two number out of a hat to determine which post in which I'll find that winner.   Fair enough?

I'm doing a two page spread for the newspaper for the December issue.  There is so much to share.  Recipes and decorating, table settings and tips I've gleaned over the years, and I love to add my photos and they take up a lot of space!  I have until the 16th to get that in so I'll be plugging away on that.  And I think I'm doing better at visiting blogs---at least I hope so.

Have a good week, whether it be raking up leaves or being immersed in a great book.  The days are fleeting, let's savor each and every moment!

Jane x

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Halloween was a bust here.  I think I mentioned in my post last week that terrible weather was predicted.  Bingo.  It was gorgeous Friday and then today.  It was as if Saturday was somehow sandwiched in to be rainy and cold.  I can't help but wonder why this affects me so much, after all my kids are grown up and are busy handing out the treats instead of begging for them.  I do have memories of these not so fun days when the bad weather made it a terrible time for them, specifically one Halloween.   I let Emily and Abby walk to the corner to trick or treat without me (they were about 7 and 4 but I trusted our neighbors).  They came back drenched and cold and crying and spent the rest of the afternoon miserably picking through the meager amount of candy they collected in their plastic pumpkins.  Sniff.  I hate rainy Halloweens!

So when you aren't hearing the knocks on the door and the 110 bags of treats you've made up have dwindled down to 102, what can you do?  Make cupcakes!  White cake and whipped cream frosting tinted very subtly with orange (for autumn but not garishly pumpkin-like).   Then edible crystal sprinkles for bling.  I know it may sound weird but I've lost my taste/urge/compulsion for sugary sweets.  I like an oatmeal cookie or a simple muffin.  The Husband gets these outstanding almond 'horns' at a nearby bakery and they are so addicting.  Could this change be the end of menopause (no pun intended)?

I actually jumped on the wagon early and packed up everything Halloween related today.  It didn't take long because I prefer to decorate for fall and do most of the spooky fun stuff on the porch for the kiddies to appreciate (see my last post).  But it felt good to eliminate half of the stuff I had everywhere as I've been wanting to minimize my clutter, don't we all?  My kids and The Husband are brutally honest and I can't help but smell the coffee after years and years of them telling me I simply have way too much everywhere.  I've always made excuses, that this is their opinion and this is my house.  But I look at my rooms sometimes and I know, as much as I love and want to be surrounded by the books, candlesticks, mercury glass and baskets...well, it's just waaaaay too much for my tiny little home.  I definitely didn't wipe out everything today.  My other dilemma is my storage space (Emily's old room).  It's totally haphazardly filled up with stuff sorted into Christmas, Easter, summer, fall and miscellaneous.  I need to purge, organize and box.  Ugh.  I'm ashamed, and to be honest, I haven't been to Homegoods and the like in months.  I have run out of space and really have come to dislike this side of myself.  :(  Big revelations here.

I stocked up on more ingredient for granola (see my last post, I'm so sorry, I'm still trying to learn my way around this Mac and haven't figured out the highlight/link thing).  I really learned a lot from my first batch and if you Pinned the recipe you may want to take note.  I felt it wasn't as 'sticky' or holding together as it should.  It needs some clumping so I added a bit more maple syrup and honey.   I used dried blueberries and apricots instead of dried cherries but the apricots didn't meet the approval of the family.  You can't blow that off---to have someone not want to eat this mix at all because of a one ingredient, that's so understandable to me.  No more apricots.  But I added coconut and that was a hit.  I picked up some glass jars at Michael's along with some black and white gingham ribbon and stamped hearts to make them pretty.  Emily brought a few jars to work, The Husband will as well, and Abby and her roomies like it, too.  Fans!  Love it!  The pretty little packaging is not necessary but I love detail and unlike making cookies or treats for the family, this is going out to people I know and don't know and is making me so happy.  

I said earlier in this post that I've avoided Homegoods but I didn't mention Target.  :)  I actually went because i was admiring my sister in law's outdoor lights this summer and she texted me that they were 50% off this week.  Score!  $7.99 a box.  I'm all set for next summer.  I wish I could have bought a few boxes for the lakehouse but I'll just have to be patient for them to go on sale next fall.  

I saw this blanket on clearance on one of those end caps.  I nearly passed out.  I was just looking at it last month and really loving the plaid, the generous size and that plush backing.  I wasn't loving the price and to be honest, I have throws on almost every sofa and chair in the house.  As I've admitted, I don't need anything else to add to this house.  But the price, oh gosh.  I'm glad I nabbed it.  Milo is glad, too.  And it adds a subtle bit of color to my den.  Plaid is big, well, as Emily pointed out, it has been for a few years along with gingham and buffalo check.  I try to keep things fresh and avoid trends because I'm the girl who never wanted to be spotted in the same bikini on the beach as someone else. Then again, you can't let that stop you if you really like it.  Enough said.  

I'm not playing show and tell nor promoting Target (wouldn't it be great if they were compensating me?), but I found this pillow cover.  Yes, you heard me, pillow cover.  Am I wrong in saying this is a first at Target?  I think pillow covers are the best thing since sliced bread.  Since I can't sew I've always bought, well, whole pillows.  And wow, they take up a lot of room when you want to store them away.  So pillow covers are the way to go for the lesser expense and that you can wash them, fold them and tuck them away in your linen closet.  While Pottery Barn and the like are selling covers at $40+, this was a mere $8.99.  And I have tons of pillows that can and did fit right inside.  Let's see more of this, please.

Abby was home again this weekend.  Although I cook pretty much every night, I try to make something a bit special when she's home.  Tonight I made a recipe called Chicken Chorizo Casserole that Emily gave me, source unknown.  I will never be recognized as a food blog, not that I want to but I think it will all come down to the fact that my food always looks miserably ugly (or maybe it's my photography).  I actually thought of editing this pic to black and white.  Still, what casserole really looks good?  And truth be told, most of the pretty photos you see of food in glossy magazines are taken before it's cooked.  The color is vibrant and beautiful and so carefully arranged.  Sorry, this is the real deal.  The flavor makes up for it in this dish.  Feel free to Pin.  

Chicken Chorizo Casserole

1 1/2 lbs. chicken thighs, trimmed (abut ten pieces)
2 lbs. Chorizo sausage, in 1 inch pieces
6 medium sized yellow potatoes cut in 1/4 inch slices
1 large red onion sliced into 1/4 inch rings
1 T oregano
1 t salt
Zest of one large orange

Arrange chicken pieces in an oiled/sprayed 9 X 13 baking dish.  Layer the sausage over, then the potatoes and onion.  Sprinkle the oregano and salt over the layers and grate the orange zest over last.  Bake covered with foil at 450 degrees for 1 hour.  Ta Da!  Done.  And so delicious!!  But disgusting looking.

The backyard is not looking so inviting with all of my fun and decorative pieces stored away.  Today I was going to enlist The Husband's help in putting away the patio table and chairs.  Then the temps hit 65 and I thought, let's give it awhile longer so I can have a place to sit and relax.  Knowing my luck it will snow this week.

Hard to tell but I tried to get a close up of the Morning Glory seed pods.  I have so many this year.  I mentioned awhile back that I'd be happy to send off an envelope of seeds to anyone that wanted them.  I always find the seeds of an established plant to be better than something you can purchase.  Anyway, I wrote something to the effect of "...for the price of a postage stamp".  I meant, my cost!  I got emails from some of you ladies asking for my address so they could send the pennies for the postage!  Oh, how sweet all of you are.  I am happy to send these seeds out to you, just email me with your address and off they will go.  At least when they are a bit more dried out.  

I'm not seeing too many giveaways these days as opposed to the days when I first started blogging, at least those that are not sponsored by merchandisers.  But...I recently ordered this book on Amazon and somehow received two for the price of one.  I hope Amazon is not reading this and planning to add the charge to my account.  It's a great book written by a popular blogger.  I hadn't visited her blog until I saw her on Instagram  recently and really fell in love with her posts, her sense of humor and style.  I was curious and the book doesn't disappoint.  I'm loving that bloggers are having books published.  It's a fresh and real look at lives of the not so rich and famous.  And we need to support each other   My feelings on the subject at least.  So...I have this extra book and I'll send if off to anyone that 1) leaves a comment, and...2) follows this blog.  No big hoops to jump.  For those who like to read my blog, you can follow by clicking on that cute icon on my sidebar with all the pretty faces, or you can type your email address in another space to "Follow By Email".  I want to thank all of my new friends and readers and want you to know how you can easily get my posts.  Good luck!  

Isn't this great, free seeds and a book?  I'm feeling super good! :)

Off I go.  Have a great week and let me know if your Halloween was as miserable as mine.  ;-)

Jane xx

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


What a ride it's been with this nasty cold.  I'm feeling much better, not 100% but good enough to get out of bed and out of the house and that makes me feel good.  In fact today was one of those days that I chose to stay in simply because I had no reason to venture out and the weather was truly horrible.  Rainy, cold and windy...we lost leaves on trees we never truly had a chance to enjoy.  This is something I usually expect in November but then again we're foolish if we think we can predict the weather these days.  

I'm happy to report I went out to get a few things to spruce up my porch.  Yesterday was as miserable as all get out much like today but I was on a mission.  I went to Michael's to get some glass jars to store granola (for which I again stocked up on ingredients).  I found these faux weedy flowers that you can barely see in the urn behind my lone pumpkin and the remainder of my salvia (wow, that stuff is hanging on!).  The foliage in front of the little pumpkin is also part of the summer plants.  They're just hanging on.  I couldn't bear to pull it out so I just added the one lone pumpkins and then four small ones on the bay window ledge.  Simple and very inexpensive.  I've had the large pumpkin face clay container for awhile now.  I just pop a big candle in it and it looks so cool at night.   

I bought one mum and plunked it in this old galvanized pail I adore.  This is not a rainbow mum that I made the mistake of getting last year...those different varieties died off randomly leaving a bunch of ugly spots in the plant.  I'm convinced these varieties (above) are the ones that do well in our area and planted together should last about the same time.  And heck, as late as I've been in getting my plants, I only have about 6 weeks to have it on my porch before it's obliterated in snow!  Anyway, it feels good to be celebrating fall and Halloween.  I'm a little disappointed in myself for worrying about lagging behind others, the 'Keeping up with the Jones'" mentality. I really abhor that but I think I was simply lying in bed too long ruminating about things I needed to get done.  We've all done that, right?    I think the porch turned out cute and I really want to make those little munchkins happy on Saturday.  

At some point in the past few days---its all a blur, I brought in my ferns and decided to winter over some geraniums.  I used to do that quite a bit as some geranium varieties are actually sensitive perennials.  They tend to need a lot of water in the dryness of my home and they drop petals a lot (so do the ferns), but if you want to spend the extra time, they are worth saving and are definitely a bright burst of color and summertime happiness on bleak days.  I get a lot of light in this corner of my family room.  It's a happy place now!

Another great dish from Carla Hall in Redbook Magazine, like the granola recipe I wrote about recently.  Unfortunately, I simply can't locate the recipe to give you a link in either the magazine, her TV show or just her name.  So I'll try to give you a quick version and you can Pin it if you want.  

By way of introduction (Ahem...), when I have a cold my go to comfort food is Chinese.  We have a wonderful place just a few blocks away.  My time honored remedy is two fold.  First I order the Spider Maki, a sushi roll with soft shell crab, avocado and cucumber.  The soy and wasabi clear my sinuses while the simple roll is light on the stomach.  I also get an order of Pork Wonton Noodle Soup.  A simple broth with loads of noodles and fat pork dumplings.  A nice crunch and 'sinus opener' is provided by way of the green onions.    I usually have this right before bed to again help with congestion and the carbs make me full and content. :)

So I found this recipe as I rested and perused reading material during my convalescence (I know, very dramatic).  Everything is the same as Carla's, just condensed.  Feel free to Pin.  It's heavenly whether you're sick or not. 

Beef Noodle Soup with Soy & Ginger

1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 T grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced matchstick style
2 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 quart beef broth
3 T soy sauce
1 t toasted sesame oil
S & P
4 oz. noodles (spaghetti, Soba, egg noodle...your choice)

Cook the onion, ginger, garlic and scallions in the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat 5 minutes.  Add the carrots, cabbage and broccoli and cook another 5 minutes.  Pour in the broth as well as 2 cups of water, soy sauce and sesame oil.  Bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper.  Let simmer 10 minutes and add noodles.  Cook 5 minutes or until they are tender.  Serve with a pinch of sliced scallions sprinkled over the top.

This cooks up very quickly as you can see but the chopping takes awhile.  I happen to love chopping, it's relaxing for me.  You may want to prepare the veggies earlier in the day and then the whole soup will go together super quick in time for dinner.  

I've had a lot of fun making treat bags for the little kids that come to my house on Halloween.  I spent the last two mornings working on them while I had my coffee.  110 bags.  I kept thinking, "You need a job, Jane."  We have a huge amount of young families that have moved into our neighborhood and it's alive again after the last generation (as in my kids and their friends) grew up and away.   I see them walking to school in their uniforms, the same my kids wore, and to church as families on Sunday.  The neighborhood is alive again after a little lull. It makes me happy.  And it's weird, maybe not, but Halloween is always a miserably cold and rainy day here without a doubt.  I always plan to sit on the porch and really get into the festiveness but the weather never cooperates and from our current forecast, it's not going to be pleasant on Saturday.  With that in mind, I like making these little bags filled with chocolates and the tart and sweet, bubble gum and stickers, plastic spider and bat rings and creepy crawlers.  I also add some crayons, pencils and erasers. This way I won't have those tiny little indecisive kiddos mulling over the candy with me encouraging them to take more than one... meanwhile their parents patiently standing in the rain, forced smiles on frozen faces!

Finally...thanks for all the well wishes.  Sounds like a lot of you ladies have or have had a bug already this season.  Or know someone with something similar.  I'm happy to have it over with before the holidays.  Emily had a touch of it and I brought her some of my soup last night.  She was back at work today, I don't know if it was my magical soup or her good work ethic.  And, did I mention that daughter Abigail is now the assistant basketball coach at the high school she teaches at?  Go Abby!  And if that's not exciting, son Jeff is planning a 30 day hiking trip along the Pacific Crest next August.  And finally,  my son, Kevin...well, we are trying to convince him and Mary Clare to take a little vacation at our condo in Asheville not only because they could use it but because we would love to have little Elsie in our clutches for a few days!!

So what's new with you guys?  How's Halloween in your neck of the woods?

See all of you soon!

Jane x

Saturday, October 24, 2015


I've come down with a dreadful sort of flu that simply doesn't want to let go.  And it's very odd...a lot of head and chest congestion but no aches or pains otherwise.  The usual sore throat is replaced with nausea.  I can't quite put my finger on it.  But I've been down for the count since Tuesday, only just crawling out of bed this afternoon to join the land of the living but for a brief (and best forgotten spurt of energy on Wednesday).  As you can see from the photo above, I had two loyal friends.  I truly felt bad that we weren't enjoying the milder temps outdoors as I lay restless in my bed most of the day.  I tried keeping them amused with way too many raw hide bones and the windows open wide with the breeze blowing the curtains and fresh air swirling.  This perks up all their senses and they spend a huge amount of time staring out the windows and barking at anything that moves.  

My front porch October 2014

As of yet I am pumpkinless and mumless.  My neighbors are probably stumped...I usually have a lot of fun playing in the fall with pumpkins, gourds, pansies and the occasional haystacks.  One thing after another and this past week has been one, "I don't care about anything" state of mind.   

Ever the planner, I began stocking up on sweet treats for the trick or treater's a few weeks ago.  I added the usual pencils, erasers, crayons, spider rings and fangs.  I have over 100 little scary bags to fill with these goodies and I'm afraid to touch them for fear of spreading my germs!  But I'm confident I'll be ready next Saturday.  Milo will have his orange kerchief with black bats around his neck, ready on the porch with me while I pass out the treats from the big old with scary ghosts bowl that I've had forever.  I may have a carved pumpkin or two by then.  :)  

For the record, Layla wears a little jester collar with beads but huddles in my bedroom not quite so thrilled with the giddy kids dressed unlike anything she's seen.  

I mentioned that I actually had a little reprieve from this blasted cold/flu/virus/hell that I've had.  It was on Wednesday afternoon.  After a day and 1/2 in bed I threw off the blankets, took a long shower, dressed and actually put on some make up.  And off to the store I went to replenish my cold meds and Diet Pepsi.  Once home I still felt pretty good so I watered the lawn and started making a red sauce for some pasta as I'd been falling way behind in the Feed Your Man department.  I also scoured the countertops and sink with bleach so no one would catch my evil germs.  While the sauce bubbled away and a pumpkin candle burned cozily on the island, I flicked on the garbage disposal only to have that big 'ol "bubbling crude" come spouting up from both sides of the sink.  Putrid black water.  Gawd,  It was downhill from there.  

Dinner was delicious but what we couldn't fit in the dishwasher was stacked on the stove.  Nothing much could be done as far as clean up without the use of the sink.  I called the Sexy Irish Plumbers (I know you must remember my boys from previous posts) and they were set to arrive midday on Thursday.  And Thursday arrived with me feeling as badly as ever, the stench from the kitchen making me sicker to my stomach as I seemed to wait an eternity for the S.I.P.  Once they came it seemed to take forever to find the problem and then I found out that I had to take everything out from the cabinet under the sink.  I'm not sure what your cabinet looks like but mine is one big mess of cleaning supplies, buckets, watering cans, plant food, air fresheners, old used sponges, mouse traps and at minimum, 15 bottles of silver cleaner.  So there I was, head pounding and feeling like I could throw up, on my hands and knees half in this dark, dank cabinet removing everything for the S.I.P.  And after all was repaired and the water running like Niagra Falls, I had no choice but to scour everything down with disinfectant until I felt faint.  The Husband walked in as I was sweating bullets and with a big smile said, "Hon! You must be feeling better!"  Oh, what a creep.  I might have thrown a sponge at him. 

I've clocked a lot of hours in bed.  I can read in spurts.  I have to stop when the congestion in my head makes my eyes hurt and head ache.  Then I start reading again when I only lie there and think of the pain.   Am I a baby or what?  Anyway, the mind wanders and I was probably in a Nyquil haze when I  thought about the granola I made last week, the remainder still filling half a jar in the kitchen.  I started to think and one thing led to another and I managed to get up and throw this together.  I know, it sounds crazy but sometimes distraction is the best thing when you are feeling like crap.  And I needed to pop some Tylenol anyway.   This is one of the fastest little desserts you will ever make and you can use up that granola I gave you the recipe for in my last post.  It looks pretty bad but so do the ripe bananas you use for baking.  Ha!

Blondies Baked Bananas

2 ripe bananas
2 T honey
1/4 c. granola
1/2 c of warmed heavy cream or half & half

Place bananas on a baking sheet in a preheated 350 oven and bake for 25 minutes or until very dark and soft.   Remove and place on individual plates.  Carefully cut off ends and slit down middle.  Mush right in the middle much like a baked potato.  Drizzle honey over each banana, sprinkle granola  on and pour a bit of the cream over each letting it spill over on to plate.  Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on each one and add a little more granola if desired.  Serves 2.

This would be delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream.  Caramel can be substituted for the honey.  I seriously contemplated more ideas once I fell back into bed.  Sweet happy dreams.

My reading has been all over the past few weeks.  I've been plowing through what I have when I can and especially in the last week.  I read The Fairy Tale Girl by Susan Branch in one afternoon.   I know she has a huge following with her cookbooks, blog and all sorts of merchandise.. and she's quite engaging.   She writes in such a friendly way, I really enjoyed it although at times it really did seem a bit 'fairytale-ish'.  And I gleaned the idea of baked bananas from her but totally hallucinated the rest.  

I picked up the two books on the left (I don't like using Internet pics unless I have to) at a used book store a few blocks away.  I can read American Cookery a little at a time as each chapter is a bit of story in its own, and I thought Gilchrist's book of short stories would satisfy my short attention span.  She's a fantastic writer, anyone familiar?  And the last book, The Artist's Way came to me in a surprising way.  We were in Gatlinburg (last month) and I wandered into a shop where a woman about my age was sitting at an easel painting in watercolors, her art and prints all around her for sale.  She was friendly and talkative and although I'm sure she has this rapport with many customers, I really felt a sort of bond as we talked of creativity: finding it and using it.  She had been a professional photographer for many many years but yearned to paint.  She happened to come upon this book, The Artist's Way, about ten years ago and it changed her life.  She jotted down the name of the book along with her personal wishes for me and I didn't hesitate to order it on my cell phone once in the car.  It's an amazing book for anyone who wants to explore and unleash their creative side, whether it's creating art, poetry or writing a book.  Established writers and artists attribute this book to their success as noted in the reviews.  It's a push I need for some of the endeavors I'm pursuing.  

So that's all I have for now.  Crazy little post I know.  I'm grateful for actually sitting up with my laptop instead of flat on my back reading your posts with my iPad which you know is so aggravating to type on, thus no comments.  I hope this bug is on the way out.  I was just at my doctor to check my vitamin D level last month and no fault of hers, we never thought of doing the flu shot as my yearly exam is in December and that's when I get it.  

I hope you are all having a great weekend.  Sounds like there is rain everywhere.  Maybe that means next weekend will be warm and sunny for those little monsters!  We can hope, right? :)

Jane xx

Sunday, October 18, 2015


I'm trying to do a little rearranging of the Fall Decor.  Yes, caps here.  It seems to have overwhelmed my home just a bit short of the way Christmas does and that's monumental.  I have these shelves in my living room and they are jammed packed with everything from pictures to books to candles to...well, whatever.  I have a hard time saying "No" to anything and everything I love.  Anyway, I read an article somewhere the other day to the effect that you should only use 60% of your shelves for your 'whatever' (as if we go by rules).   I think I'm at 110%.  I really need to declutter and I'm having nightmares.  

Anyway, I added some real pumpkins, albeit small ones to my mantel.  :)

Saturday I made a fire for the first time this season.  It was afternoon and I was busy in the kitchen where I could see it and enjoy.  I love a fire in the late afternoon, especially when I'm making dinner.  If I could ever design my own home I'd have a fireplace in the kitchen right next to a table where we had cozy meals.  But this is good enough.

I tried my hand at making granola for the first time.   As I'm allergic to sunflower seeds and oil I've always had to be careful of granola and energy/breakfast bars.  A lot of 'healthy' snacks also have sunflower oil and I have to carefully read labels.  I came across a recipe for a healthy and easy to make granola in Redbook magazine by Carla Hall, who is a co-host on The Chew (love that show).  I had to change it up, of course, by eliminating the sunflowers seeds.  I also needed to make a few other changes that may have been recipe glitches or my own.  Here's my version or you can go to The Chew website and search Carla's recipe.

Simple Granola with Fruit and Nuts (Blondie's Version)


3 cups oats
3/4 c slivered almonds
3/4 c raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/4 c canola oil
1/2 c maple syrup
2 t vanilla extract
1 c dried cranberries
1 c dried apricots (chopped)
(you may substitute any dried fruit you like chopped uniformly)
2 T honey

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
In a large bowl mix the first 5 dry ingredients.  In a small bowl stir together the oil, syrup and vanilla.  Drizzle the syrup mixture over the dry and mix thoroughly.  Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 50 minutes, stirring every once in a while to brown evenly.  Remove and toss with dried fruit.  Drizzle with honey and let cool.  Store in an airtight container.

I doubled the recipe...this is an easy recipe but not so fast to put together.  I made several individual portions to give to family member who absolutely loved it.  You can eat it by the handful (as The Husband did), or top vanilla yogurt as daughter Abigail tried this morning.  Big thumbs up.  :)

I had another recipe I wanted to try...very simple and it was good hot and cold.  A simple appetizer.  I rolled out two containers of ready made crescent rolls into a rectangular shape, spread 8 oz. cream cheese and 1/4 c Parmesan, down the middle and sprinkled that with 1/2 cup chopped red pepper and then pinched it closed.  Flip it over seam side down on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cut into 2 inch wedges.  I served this with the potato soup I had made Saturday.

This was a fantastic potato soup recipe I Pinned from The Pioneer Woman all know Ree, right?  Love her.  I'll spare you a recipe here and just give you the link.  This is a winner but beware, there is a lot of chopping involved.  I would also eliminate half the bacon at the beginning and sub butter...the soup really had a smokey bacon flavor I could live without.  And I would add the carrots at the end, I didn't find the color of the soup too appetizing with the orange color.  I'm really sorry I can't give you the link but you can go to her website, The Pioneer Woman or go to my Pinterest site and look under Healthy Soups and Stews.   

We are off to a great week weather-wise here in the upper Midwest and that encourages me to finish up my yard work.  I have some new lilies to plant which will make me smile next summer and be grateful that I took the time to plant them.  And I have seeds from the cone flowers that I grabbed up when we were at the lake in August.  I'm hoping they will come up next spring.  I also want to say that my morning glories have an abundance of seed pods that will be ready to pluck off the vine in about 3-4 weeks.  My vine has a combo of pink and blue flowers.  If anyone wants any of these seeds (and I can give you a nice supply), let me know and I can have them sent off to you in a New York (Chicago) minute.  Email me your name and address and I'll ship them off as soon as they look dried.  

Off I go.  Not sure if you are a Mets or Chicago Cubs fan but we are rooting here in Chi Town for our  Cubbies.  Wow---what an exciting time.  We have season tickets so we will have seats next week and hopefully at The World Series.  Well, not me...I will totally forfeit to my sons, true sports fans.  

Have a great week, friends!

Jane x