Monday, April 20, 2015

SALADS, CHEESECAKE, EGGPLANT, FLOWERS AND SNEEZES!

Hello everyone!  I hope you are having a good start to the week.  I'm just miserable over this weather and that's just not me.  Not that I never get miserable but I take the weather with a grain of salt-there's very little you can do about it.  But we were teased all last week.  Friday was exceptionally warm, almost 80 degrees.  I cleaned up the patio and The Husband and I brought out the patio furniture and umbrella.  I was going to cook salmon on the grill and then it just clouded up and now our forecast has predicted rain, gloom and doom for the next two weeks.  So I awoke to gray skies and wind this morning.  Even the dogs sulked. 

The Husband and I have so much to do on the weekends as we are both not the type to go out and about on weeknights.  He's spent from work and I also feel like my day needs to wind down.  So Saturday we went out to a furniture store to look at chairs for our not-so-much-as-even-started den.  Lately with all the plans and decisions and choices we have to get going with the lakehouse, sometimes we have to focus on this house.  I think we are just bouncing all over the place.  We didn't find/agree on anything as far as chairs for the den, a sort of reading-television room.   It seems sometimes we have to just step away from all of this to live peacefully if you know what I mean.  A lot of head butting. 

We had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory Saturday after looking at chairs.  I've had the French Country Salad before and simply love it.  No guilt and so good.  We ordered the Avocado Egg Rolls as well.  I found a "copycat" recipe on Pinterest, if I make them, I'll share.  The dipping sauce isn't right so I'm going to fiddle with that.  



We always try to save room for the cheesecake and it never happens.  And yes, we should get a piece to bring home but we never do.  I had pity on my man and made this yesterday.  It's from Susan Branch's first cookbook (sorry no link), and I think it's great.  I know you saw my Easter cheesecake mess but I swear, The Husband cut this last night with a machete or something similar and it ended up looking like this.  Still, it was heavenly.  Do you know you can get graham cracker crumbs as opposed to the crackers?  No pounding and pulverizing...just add your melted butter, no waste.    



I mentioned in this recent post that I was looking into some natural home remedies for skin care.  I was happy with the response I had from some of you ladies and many of you shared your tried and true skin care regimens.  I love that, we share so much on our blogs, maybe we need to delve deeper in to other aspects of our lives.  Personally, I've always taken what I think is very good care of my skin.  Washing morning and night, never sleeping in makeup and moisturizing like a maniac as my skin is super dry.  I do know skin care is changing by leaps and bounds especially in research of the benefits that retinols, collagen and oils have on the aging process of our skin.  But I regress, I'm not liking the additives and fragrance in many products.  While I don't argue with good science, I'm looking at some natural products and remedies.  And I'm methodically doing my research. 

As I wrote about in the post I linked, I ordered benonite clay from Amazon.com. as well as some raw apple cider vinegar.  Mixed in equal parts you have a sort of mud-like substance and I used The Husband and Abby as my victims.  They were elated with the results.  The clay cleaned their pores like a sponge soaking up all the bad stuff in their skin from years back.  They both agreed that the clay mixture on their face was soothing, tingling and a little pulsating-like it was really working.  Afterward, I massaged a bit of pure jojoba oil into their skin.  This is fast absorbing and works above and beyond so many oils: Argan, Moroccan, tea tree, sesame, olive and even coconut oil.  These are all great but the advantages of jojoba far exceed the others.  Loving it.  I mix it with my body lotion and use it everywhere. You can use it a alone as well, it absorbs quickly and a little goes a long way.   I'm sure you can find any of these products at your local health food shop.  I'm elated in finding new things that work.  I love my Neutrogena, Garnier and Olay, science is good.  But it's so cool to find out that ancient remedies work even now.  Jojoba is in my favorite shampoo, but now I'm a step ahead by massaging the pure oil into the ends of my hair to make it healthy, shiny and smooth.  Oh, and at a fraction of the cost.  



We spent some time last week looking at tile for the upstairs bath and powder room downstairs.  I'm looking for beachy colors.  It's hard to tell from this pic but it has some blue, grays, greens and beige.  I love the irregularities of the tiles, too.  The Husband and I don't agree a lot on what we like but we are getting better at listening, understanding and appreciating what each of us wants.  And we know when to walk away away from each other, if you know what I mean. :)



Have you ever seen or had white eggplant?  I saw these at my grocery store last week and I always get such a kick out of trying the unusual.  I thought these looked like little baby beluga whales  Ha!  And how to prepare them?  Absolutely no idea.  By the way, these look huge but the aren't.  They're on a small cutting board. 


and cut lengthwise, then again in 1/2 slices.  I tossed them in a large bowl with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a mix of chopped garlic and a blend of Italian seasonings.  I baked them at 350 for about 10 minutes and then let them have a little broiling for about 5.  I love that they didn't suck up the olive  oil, nor get watery.  Just delicious.  I'd love to use them in a recipe, have to work on that.   So good. :)  



These are the forsythia I cut and brought in last week.  I had daffodils as well.  I'm so looking forward to my tulips, I have such a great variety and they last so much longer.  

We were fooled by temperatures  last week.  But it was just so much fun to have Milo and Layla in the yard, romping and lying in the sun.  At least we had a few good days.  I have a lot of things going on this week, a hair appointment, doctor and dentist appointment, and errands galore to run on Friday-that will be my day.  Still, I like getting out each day, the fresh air does us good no matter how warm or cold it is.  I can live without the allergens.  Like most of you I'm going crazy.  :( 

Let's hang in there with the wonky weather, it is only April after all.  The upper Midwest is know to get snow around this time! :(

See you soon!

Jane x
         


 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

SPRING FLOWERS AND A REFRESHING SALAD RECIPE


Everything these days is a swirling mix of doing inventory for the lakehouse and picking out replacements for the floors and kitchen cabinets ...a huge job, and then working on the plans we had for this house in the spring.  Seriously, my head is spinning.  The inventory for the lake was mind boggling...what did they toss out in the clean up?  They didn't document that.  I do know the laundry room below the bathroom where the pipe burst took the brunt of the damage and that's where I kept my supply of sheets and towels and we had a ton.  Six twin beds alone in the house and Summerhouse, and I always kept multiple sets to change out so I didn't have laundry going round the clock when we had guests.  And we sleep sixteen so I had a tremendous amount of bath towels.   You don't think you have so much and then you go through the numbers and dollars.  Crazy.

That's just the lake stuff going on.  Besides trips to a few tile and home centers looking at cabinets and flooring for  there, I'm getting quotes on a new porch and driveway here and then some landscaping which we had been planning on doing for over a year. 

I was at Home Depot the other day (looking at flooring), and they had pansies on sale for 98 cents a pot.   This is about the only flower that you can plant during the "iffy" weather here in the upper Midwest.  I think they are pretty in this urn on my porch.











Creamy Cucumber Salad

Peel 2 English cucumbers (I leave a bit of green on them for color).  Cut in half and then again lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds and lay them cut side down on a paper towel to soak up some of the water.  Meanwhile mix 1/4 cup plain Greek Yogurt and 1/4 cup sour cream.  Add 3 T. mayonnaise, 1/4 cup fresh dill or 1 T. dried, 3 T white vinegar, 1/2 t. sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Chop up one scallion (or green onion) reserving some of the greens at the top.  Slice the cucumbers at 1/4 inch intervals so they look like half moons. Toss everything together.  Spoon into a pretty bowl and dust with a little of the dill and scallions. You may want to refrigerate for an hour for the flavors to meld, but I simply love it for how quickly it goes from prep to table.   SO refreshing!



I talked with my veterinarian about Milo the other day.  His biopsy was sent to a bigger lab and the results came back.  Not being able to quote Dr. B word for word...the type of cancer cells they see are not the sort that generally spread, so they are hopeful the sarcoma is contained within the tumor.  My guy will have the surgery May 4th.  I'm going to be a wreck, but the sooner they remove this, the better.  When I pet him and my hand reaches this golf ball size tumor on his leg, I want to scream.  Go away.  Leave my precious dog alone.  He has many years ahead of him.  We would be lost without him.  I know...there is hope and I'm focusing on that.  Keep those prayers coming.

Jane xx 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

ALL OVER THE PLACE & SOME NATURAL BEAUTY RECIPES

Happy Weekend!  It's a wonderful 60 degrees in Chicago and the clouds and rain have finally disappeared.  Wednesday night brought some serious thunderstorms and high winds to our area, but the worst devastation occurred in a small town named Fairdale, about 80 miles northwest of Chicago.   It happened in the early evening so it was very hard to see the damage, but watching our news at 10:00 p.m., the reporters at the site were quite shaken.  And the Chicago weatherperson that I like so much...he had been on and off the air almost all day with warnings of the treacherous weather heading our way.  As he reported on what now is known to have been an EF-4 tornado (winds over 200 mph), he actually had to pause as his voice broke.  A whole town, gone in a matter of minutes.  Tiny as it was...a population of about 150 people, surrounded by farmland for miles and miles, this compassionate man was clearly feeling that emotion when things are out of our hands.  Two lives were lost, which is almost a miracle since there are no homes or structures left.  I'm seeing on the news now that people are being allowed back into the town and volunteers are coming in droves with wheelbarrows and shovels...shelters are receiving donations of food, water, soap, diapers...you name it.  And God bless the Red Cross.  You can click on the link if you want to make a donation.

Well, see those happy girls?  Abby and her roomies, or should I say "house-ies".  The Husband and I took them out to dinner for Abby's birthday Tuesday night.  I drove with her boyfriend, Tom, and The Husband met us from his office.  I mentioned in my last post that Abby had chosen a restaurant within walking distance, called Tango Sur.  As Tom and I were driving there, we both became a little curious about the name and type of restaurant it was, so I Googled it (and it's strange that I hadn't done that, it's just a weird habit of mine when I try a new place).  Well, Tom nearly drove off the road when he heard me gasp.  "OMG!  BYOB!"  Sheer panic.  What is a big birthday celebration without lots of wine?  Texts flew and provisions were secured.  Check.  Oh, the restaurant was Argentinian...the best steaks and empanadas evah.











And we had a ball at the mall. We browsed through Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma, Macy's and Gap.  It was there they I found these pants and it was love at first sight.  I've been wearing tapered pants and jeans for years now...and I like that for boots and flats.  And then I saw a pic of Amal Clooney (don't you just love her style?) in wide leg short pants.  So I have these to wear to the shower, I'm not going so casual as this picture with shoes like this...maybe another time, this is at a country club.  So I'm going to try those kitten heels I showed you here.  And then maybe a cardigan with a bright scarf or necklace?  Emily is the queen of chunky jewelry so I my have a peek at her stash.



So about this clay.  I mentioned to all of you that I get daily emails from a site called Mind Body Green.  It's just so interesting, I could spend the whole day reading the "articles" that cover anything from food to beauty to psychology.  So I was researching natural face masks...I'm really getting into the "out with the old and in with the new" when it comes to skincare as I get older.  My skin has always been so dry, I simply moisturized day and night and very heavily so.  Now I'm learning: exfoliate.  Get rid of those dead cells so the healthy skin can shine through.  Don't let your lotions and potions sit on that dead stuff...it needs to penetrate.  I use a very gentle exfoliator by Aveeno about 3 times a week in the shower.  And then I came across an article on Mind Body Green about making your own masks, which takes it one step further and gets your skin deep down clean and healthy.  I thought it was so cool when the writer said that we probably already had the ingredients for these natural skin treatments in our pantry.  And then I read that the first ingredient for her mask was bentonite clay.  Oh, yeah...now do I have that in the fridge, cabinet or out in the backyard?  Maybe I'm fresh out.  Seriously, I was sort of excited about it since it's been used since ancient times to draw toxins and impurities out of the skin.  The clay has a negative charge so it draws toxins (which have a positive charge) out of the skin where it binds to the clay.  Fascinating?  Now before you grab a shovel and start digging to China, I consulted my best friend Google and wow, you can get this stuff anywhere!  Health food stores, websites...you name it.  I found the best price at Amazon.com and ordered a small jar of it.  You simply mix a tablespoon of the clay with 2-3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and then let it stay on your face and harden for 5-10 minutes.  I'm going to be your guinea pig!  You can read the whole article here, and also get the recipe for the all natural oat/brown sugar/honey facial scrub.  I'm going to try that one, too. 

I hope I haven't bored you.  I have control issues that have nothing to do with other people, I could care less what any of you do! :)   But I have a real drive to be in control of myself---my health, body and mind.  Okay, my house and garden, car, pets...well, you know what I mean.  

I'm pretty relieved to say that Milo has started on the anti-seizure meds and he is not acting lethargic at all.  Nor is he sleeping more than usual.  He's still sort of clingy in the evenings but there's really nothing wrong with that, I'm just not used to him following me.  Thank you for your nice comments and prayers.  We will see the vet in a few weeks to talk about the tumor.  

We are leaving in a bit to go to a House Warming Party for Abby and her "house-ies".  She really liked my glass drink dispenser with the spout so I found one at Kohl's for her and the girls as a gift.  And I didn't have a gift for her when we went out to dinner for her birthday so I found a cute pair of flats and a necklace at American Eagle, as well as a little gift card so she can choose her own things.  And I ordered a bunch of pics through Walgreens for her to put in frames in her room.   I kept meaning to do that for her and so she's going to be surprised.  The party theme is Taco Bar, so I'm making a Jalapeno Popper Dip and Mexican Won Tons, and so I have to scoot.  I have two hours before we leave.  

I'll be back next week.

Jane xx

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

EASTER/SPRING TABLESCAPE, TREATS AND A DESSERT DISASTER


I set my table the night before.  The only flowers I bought were just one bouquet of tulips...I knew every surface would be used for appetizers and drinks.  So I jazzed up this hurricane with some real lily's which were part of an old bouquet, for a centerpiece.  I just snipped the stems off and stuck them into the existing greenery (if you look close, it's pinecones and berries, this is a Christmas decoration and I just switch the candle out to use it year round).  Some random eggs and candles finished things off.


I alternated clear salad plates with the little bunny plates from Pier 1 that I shared in this post.  I used different types of napkin rings, these gold bunnies and...




I mentioned here that I was going to try my hand at a "signature" drink.  I found a recipe for a Sunlight Sangria, I think in a Williams Sonoma catalog.  The recipe was included in that post.  It was really, really good and we made three batches of it (that's reeeeeally good!).  Most people thought the tequila was a bit too much and that I should hold back a bit more on the lime, otherwise they were a hit and I promised to make them again.  I broke down and bought a glass dispenser with a spout from Target.  Good investment.  











Yesterday I worked in the kitchen for three straight hours washing things by hand and running two loads in the dishwasher.  I don't know if it was the cocktails, but everyone was laughing and talking well up to 9:00 p.m. (we started at 2:30).  I just didn't want to spoil the fun with a major clean up.  I still have things soaking.



I want to get out to take some pics of all the bulbs I have sprouting...it rained last night and everything has turned such a bright vibrant green, so pretty.  Today is Abigail's birthday so we are having dinner downtown near her house.  She wants me to call it a house, not an apartment.  :)  We're going to a new place called Tango Sur...sounds interesting.  


I hope all of you had a wonderful Easter and are off to a great week.

Jane x 

Joining Debra at Common Ground for Share Your Style Thursday

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

ALL THE BEST


I thought I'd be able to post a pretty "pre-tablescape" for Easter.  That way you could steal, er...try some of my ideas.  No way.  I'm struggling to stay above water so I simply have here a little centerpiece I made for spring.  Honestly, the table is going to be so crowded with dinnerware, I think all I will be able to fit is a simple vase of flowers, and a small one at best.  I've heard, and I've done, pretty centerpieces that are removed once dinner is ready and that's wonderful.  Go for it.  Your guests love to admire a pretty table when they walk in, they feel special!













**Sunlight Sangria**

15 oz. Blanco tequila
15 oz. Pinio Grigio
15 oz. Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
1 cup Simple Syrup
1 cup Fresh Lime Juice
2 cups ice
15 oz. Club Soda

Add all of the ingredients to a large pitcher or dispenser but for the Club Soda and ice.  Stir.  Add the last two and garnish each glass with sliced limes.  

Ahhhhh....light and refreshing.  Perfect for summer, too, don't you think?




On the lakehouse front.  Good news or bad?  Well, we hired our contractor who will do the work.  That's good.  Not good, the house won't be "dried out" for about another two weeks.  Good news?  We've been picking and choosing new ways to do things, new ideas for flooring and walls and decor.  Bad thing?  The house will not be ready to move back into until about  October.  No summertime. Whatsoever.  The first time in 24 years.  It's so, so sad and depressing.  I still have to remember, we have a roof over our heads here in Chicago, we didn't lose everything we owned, and that this is going to be chalked up as simply a bad time as the years go on.  We had a lot of plans for sprucing up the house here once spring came along, so I'm glad that we can focus on that for the first time without all the business of getting the boats out, the patio ready, the spring cleaning and the beach fix-up.  Oh yeah, even that sounds fun right now knowing we won't have it, but we'll survive.  

I'm off tomorrow to get a few fresh ingredients for our Easter Feast.  I found a gorgeous 11.63 lb ham yesterday.  What a beast!  I love holidays...the smell of food cooking, the laughter and happiness of being together, the gratefulness of a healthy and happy family.  All worries put aside and hope for "New Beginnings".  Symbolic for all, I think.  Our problems are so insignificant in the realm of all things now.

Wishing all of you a wonderful and blessed Easter!  Much love,

Jane xx

Friday, March 27, 2015

A LITTLE BIT OF VITAMIN D DOES A BODY GOOD, AND OTHER MUSINGS


It's odd looking at the pictures I take on the glass coffee table, a little surreal.  Everything looks like it's floating.   I have so many pretty spring pieces that I keep putting out, there's no room for a mug of coffee or a book.  I've never been called a minimalist. :)





Enough about health, I just sort of feel that spring breeze saying, "Come out of hibernation, Jane.  Breathe in the fresh air, breathe out.  Holds those abs in and raise your arms over your head..."  Oops, I drifted off there.

I'm excited about Easter.  At last count I have 14 people coming for dinner.  Next week I'm going to make a tablescape and I'll put it on here.  I mentioned that I'm going to do a lot of mixing and matching so it's probably a good idea to see how it all looks.  And I hadn't realized the day was creeping up so quickly.  

I sometimes feel like my grocery shopping trips are like my sort of "Club Med".  Who needs friends when you can be surrounded by multiple chatty strangers while checking out artichokes?  Seriously, I casually asked a woman how she prepares them, I've had them in restaurants and only have a vague idea of the clipping and trimming and removing the "choke".  So she started to explain her method of steaming them when another customer, a tall slender man with wire glasses, a beard and a French accent, suddenly appeared and said. "Garlic.  Garlic is the key."  And the woman looked at me as if he had never interrupted and said, "Lemon juice."  As if this wasn't enough, the boy stocking the cauliflower at the end of the bin called out. "Parmesan cheese!"  Well, this went on for awhile as I made the mistake in asking how to pick the best ones.  We now had six hands grabbing and squeezing artichokes and chattering about ripeness.  So tonight I'm making steamed artichokes with lemon, garlic and Parm.  I'm wondering how my little Artichoke Group is doing.  :)


I had the nicest lady helping me at Trader Joe's the other day,  it was like having a personal shopper.   One of you girls mentioned these little crunchy pea snacks they carry, so I asked an employee about them and she insisted on walking me right over to the snack aisle to show me what they had.  Then I asked her where the ricotta cheese was and she had me follow her right over to that area.  She glanced in my cart and saw that I had the pizza dough that the store makes up fresh, and her eyes sort of lit up.  "Oh, you're going to make a pizza with the ricotta?  Good choice!"  So we chatted about that, she makes something similar and we exchanged ideas.  And then she saw some fresh Eucalyptis in my cart as well, and started to give me ideas for crafting with it (a bit involved), and she also said that she keeps a few stems in her bathroom and the steam from the shower makes it smell heavenly.  Lovely lady.  And really, sometimes you may smile at strangers and they may just look away, this happens quite a bit to me because smiling is like a reflex for me.  And last Friday?  You would have not wanted to be around me when I was trying to order fish at the grocery store and the employee behind the counter got a little snarky with me.  I wanted to just cancel the order and walk away in a serious huff.  But it was Friday.  And it's Lent.  So I was nice.   I did however,  suggest they take one of the girls away from the smoothie bar and get her behind the seafood bar.  After all, it's Lent.


I'll explain quickly how I threw this pizza together after reading a post at New House New Home.  Feel free to check out her recipe.  Doesn't this look exceptional?  I used the pizza dough from Trader Joe's, and as the nice lady there advised. pre-bake the dough crust for about ten minutes or it will just get soggy (this has happened to me).





Anyway...what I'm leading up to is how much I pass the time listening to music in my car. I really like the Top Forties.  I guess I just love Pop Culture all around.  As Oscar Wilde said~Youth is wasted on the young.  Not that I want to be young (and foolish) again, I just enjoy the heck out of so many forms of entertainment.  No, I never watched Masterpiece Theater, (although I spent my fair share of time watching Monsterpiece Theater, hosted by Alistair Cookie, on Sesame Street back in the late 80's and early 90's).  But I'm not ashamed to say that I watch some reality TV and never miss Jimmy Fallon.  Enough...I just want you to have a look at one of the most popular British singing groups with fans all over the world.  I've always loved them, the "boy band" insignia and all.  I'm not a fan of looking at videos on blogs or social media, but this is worth it.  Turn your volume up, sit back and then enjoy this wonderful performance from Saturday Night Live by the fabulous group, One Direction.


See you gals soon!

Jane xx

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

EVERY LITTLE THING IS GONNA BE ALRIGHT


We went to the lake on Saturday...Friday proved to be a little busy.  Too bad, Saturday was cloudier and colder and I was so not in the mood to see what had become of the lakehouse after 2 weeks of the "cleaning up pro's" there.




This is a skeleton of my kitchen and the hall on the other side.  I know it's confusing and I won't elaborate on what is where.  But remember me telling you my kitchen was not effected by water damage?  No such luck, a lot of water seeped through and under the wall from the hall that received so much of the damage.  So that's what you see on the mid-left.  The floors in the kitchen were removed, as were all of the floors in the house.  We had thought these floors were saved.




I'm trying to remember things I had on my walls, collectibles (thank you, Rita).  What, how many, from where, what did I pay?  Very confusing.  Answers will come,  I'm trying not to freak.  I have been having hives really bad.  I've never had them this bad before but I'm prone to them emotionally.  I'm scratching like a maniac and can't find a remedy.  And tension headaches.  We don't usually have a single bottle of pain reliever in the house...The Husband and I never have anything like these sort of headaches.  And I hit the Tums almost every night when my mind (and stomach) shift into 4th gear.

Still, I try to concentrate on the positive.  I've made a Pinterest board just for this "project", and since The Husband just doesn't get Pinterest, I have bought a few magazines to show him ideas.  I need to look at paint samples and flooring options.  I have plenty of time but loose ends are my demise.

A little trivial info.  The two homes to just the left (west) of us have been up for sale for a good bit of time.  They both just recently sold in the past few weeks.  I find that sort of ironic...new beginnings and new friends all around.  I just don't know when we will be back in to meet these new people.  Patience, Jane.  Patience. 
 



I made these cookies before we went...simple sugar cookies and I've given you the recipe before...the same old from the baby shower and then the marathon for my niece.  I made a very sweet (and tart) Key Lime icing/filling, and using various size cookie cutters, made layered cookies.  And I brought these to Kevin and MC's, as they are not safe here in my clutches!!



Whoa...too much bad stuff here!  But no...good things always. That's the way I have to see things or I would go nuts.  I am working out hard, physically...The Husband made a great little work-out room in Abby's old room (and the future guest room).  He likes to lift weights some nights here, and go to the gym other nights to do laps.   I've been doing a DVD I love and it's all about cardio and strength training.  I'm not always so good about it...believe me, sometimes I can't even walk by the door of that room!  But I have my son's wedding in 5 months and I want to look my best.  How about some prayers for that?!  Yes, I know a smile is the best thing you can wear, but I smiled through the last two weddings and still don't like to look at the pics! Ha!

Truly, things are good here.  We can have so many bad things thrown at us, but I feel a sense of clarity.  It's life with all of it's ups and downs. We need to keep the important things in perspective...health, love, family, peace on earth and happiness for all.  

Happy Almost Spring to All of You!!

Jane xx