Tuesday, October 6, 2015


A view of our condo complex from our balcony, Asheville, NC
I have never been so psyched and ready and prepared for a vacations like this one.  And once home so totally happy and revitalized.  SAID NO ONE EVER!
We arrived in North Carolina in time for the monsoon season.  I shouldn't make light of that because  the whole lower East coast has been dealing with  treacherous rain and flooding in the past week.  As for myself and The Husband, it rained the entire time we were in Asheville and well, we discovered why umbrellas were invented.  It didn't stop us but I'll keep this short.  We did our much loved shopping in Biltmore Village very close to our place, and we ventured into downtown Asheville for so many wonderful meals as well as more shopping.  My favorites for food:  The Lobster Trap, LAB, Strada, Corner Kitchen, and  Rezaz.  Shopping: Tops For Shoes, Mast,  COCO & C, The Screen Door...well, I simply love all of the shops.  The Husband and I found a few books we loved, a few things for the house, but mostly little gifts for our kids---including spouses.  And our Elsie.  The Husband chose some darling finger puppets for her and a Christmas ornament.  He's really loving being a grandfather.
Pretty fall mums from the grocery store.  A great Pick Me Up!
It was finally Home Sweet Home Wednesday night.  We got in at 8:00 p.m. and were sound asleep by 9 (I must confess that I sleep like a baby on planes but still...).  And in the days that have followed I have not stopped moving until yesterday.  But that's my life story, right?
We found some 'off the beaten path'  places in Gatlinburg.  I so loved the artisan made pieces.  I bought this beautiful dish with a 'flower frog'.  I'll try to do a  better display when I have more flowers.  I just love pottery and it's so nice to meet the potter as well.  This area also has an abundance of artists who work in carving wood pieces,  I found some very cool Christmas ornaments for myself and the family.  The Husband found a shop owned by a photographer and absolutely fell in love with his work, most of which was done in rural Tennessee and the Great Smoiky Mountains.  He spent well over an hour chatting with the man and bought three prints. We ultimately ended up shipping our little treasures home via Fed Ex.  I was happily surprised that it didn't cost as much as I had expected and the big box arrived 2 days after we got home and everything was securely wrapped and packed just perfectly.  We will definitely remember this.  So many times I've fallen in love with something only to say, "But how will I get it home?"  No problem now. 

It has taken awhile to get adjusted to being back at home.  The first few days involved cleaning and laundry and shopping...a party on Saturday and Abby staying the weekend (she requires a full time cook and maid).  Yesterday I decided to make a pizza as I had been wanting to try a recipe for dough from this cookbook.  This is a wonderful book, I'm not a vegetarian but I definitely try to keep the meat down and the veggies up.  It makes sense to me.  I hope you have time to look up
 this chef.  He's a British author and broadcaster and has written several award winning cookbooks that are not exclusive to vegetables..  He is all over the place~~~love that,
So I tried the dough recipe and not only does it make the crust for a pizza, but with a few tweaks, you can do bread, crostini, flatbreads and pita.  You can also freeze the dough (a great plus). How good can it get?
Basic dough after kneading
I know many of you are thinking, I have no desire to make my own bread, pizza, whatever.  I gave it a fair shot myself a few years ago and after covering every bit of counter space and much of the floor with flour, not to mention messy bowls, measuring cups and spoons to wash, I decided it wasn't worth the trouble. 
I would not post this version of bread dough if I didn't have the faith that it's simple, versatile and simply delicious.  I'm giving you the condensed version from the book but it's exact as far as measurements.  
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 t sea salt
1 t instant dried yeast
1 T olive oil
1 1/3 c warm water
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add the olive oil and water and mix to a rough dough.  Knead by hand for 10 minutes or as I do, use the dough hook if you have a KitchenAid or similar standing mixer.  I let it work away for 15 minutes while I prepared a second batch to freeze and cleaned up. 
Set oven to 200 degrees.  Once it reaches that temp, let it go for 5 minutes.  Turn the heat off and open the oven door keeping it ajar for 5 minutes to let most of the heat escape.  Take your kneaded ball of dough and place it in a large ovenproof bowl in which you have drizzled a little oil.  Roll the dough a bit in it to lightly coat.  Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and place in oven for approximately 2 hours.  I let my dough rise with this method as it's foolproof.  Most recipes instruct you to place the dough in a warm spot of your home.  That's an impossibility in my drafty old house.  Try it this way.
2 hours later.  The risen dough
All you need to do now is gently poke the dough with your fingers, let it 'deflate', and then gently shape it into a log-type form.  Cut it into three even sections to make crusts for three thin pizzas, approximately 12 inches in diameter.  Simply roll out the pieces on a floured surface until they are 1/8 inches thick.  Place on a lightly floured pizza pan and fold and crimp the edges any old way.  Then create the pizza of your choice~~the possibilities are endless.
I made veggie pizzas.  A huge hit. On one I had a simple tomato sauce that I used sparingly and just barely spread around.  The second had just a bit of olive oil on the crust and then the same veggies.  Here you go:
1 T olive oil
2 T chopped shallot
2 large cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
2 T fresh thyme
3 T fresh parsley
1 t sugar
1 T honey
Heat oil in a large saucepan. over low heat.  Add oil and once hot, add shallots and garlic. Cook on low stirring about 3 minutes...do not overcook--you do not want them limp.  Add tomatoes, herbs, sugar and honey (these last two ingredients will take away the bitterness of the tomatoes).   Continue cooking covered approximately 1/2 hour, stirring often and breaking down the tomatoes.  Meanwhile prepare your toppings...veggies, meat, cheeses, whatever your heart desires.
Assemble your pizza and bake at 450 degrees approximately 15-20 minutes or until you see the edges of the crust a nice healthy brown.   Each pizza serves 2-3. 
Use what you want but remember---all veggies are not alike.  I used sautéed garlic, shallots and sliced red onion.  Everything but the eggplant got this bit of action on the stove for about three minutes in a pan with a drop of olive oil.  This takes the 'edge' off the onions and keeps them from getting crisp in the oven.  Use what you want.  Eggplant and most squash should be salted once cut and left to 'perspire' on a paper towel for about 15 minutes.  They will otherwise get soggy when cooked.  Yuk. Root veggies and more dense sorts should be blanched to soften them.  So you want to think of this sort of preparation before you aim to pop the pizza in the oven. 
I wanted to share this picture with all of you.  This is my son who got married in August.  He got the hiking bug this past spring when he, my other son, Kevin, The Husband and several guys went hiking and camping near Boulder, Colorado.  It is now a huge part of Jeff's life.  He did some mountain climbing around Lake Tahoe on his honeymoon and here he is again in Colorado a few weeks ago where he climbed 3 of the highest mountains in the state.  I'm simply amazed and in awe.  He's so nonchalant about it.  The other day I saw these pics for the first time.  I thought he was away on business.  I asked him, "Why are you doing this?  Is this a new passion?  You and the wilderness?"  (You may want to refer back to my last post and my preoccupation with bears and vultures around our cabin in Tennessee).  He said, "No, Mom.  I'm facing my fears.  I'm going to face every one of them."  I was speechless but not surprised.  This is what makes Jeff unique.  He's truly his 'own person' and while he has tons of friends, a new wife and probably a lot of children in his future, he has a restlessness that I think he's really trying to unleash and this is just very exciting.  Of course I worry, I'm hoping he will find someone or a group to team up with and I'm sure he will.  We have so many wishes for our children...I may be a bit of a dreamer but I simply want mine to be happy. 
It's such an iffy time of year, temperatures going up and down, leaves changing a little slowly.  I know so many of you are in very hot climates and relish this time of year and others simply want summer over.  I was cleaning out my closet yesterday, sorting through sandals and summer shoes I could donate and then pulling out all the boots and winter shoes.  Contrary to the side of me that is a shoe fanatic, I'm happiest in bare feet.  I was sort of wincing looking at the leather and suede and thinking, "Oh.  Not yet!"  Some of us think that time slows down during the winter.  I find this time of year to be when I'm on my annual brink of insanity with the holidays just around the corner.  But I digress.  My gardens and yard are in desperate need of some TLC.  I mentioned to Abby that I needed to start tossing the flowers and storing the pots.  She looked almost tearful.  Why would I do that when they still had pretty flowers?  Because I've sometimes waited until mid November  and then froze my little fingers  and nose off doing it.  While writing this (long) post I went outside for a little stroll around the grounds.  The squirrels have made a mess digging up the lawn to bury the endless amount of walnuts we have everywhere.  In pots of mixed flowers, some of the less sturdy plants have died off from the cold night temps while others are just begging for a drink of water.  The morning glory and ivy are eating the house and with little rain here, I haven't seen any birds except crows. 
I simply don't know where time goes.  I've been a little grumpy the past few days as I feel a bit tired, sort of worn out and not really up for all of the chores, projects and ideas I have swimming around me.  I think I expect too much of myself (and others I might say).  I find making excuses to be a cop out.  Somewhere along the way I've come to equate relaxing with laziness and though I know that's just crazy, I simply feel happy and content when I've accomplished something tangible.  And the perfectionist in me wants everything done this minute.  I need to find some balance.  I don't think I truly know what relaxation means.  And I really don't think I found much of it on this vacation.
Okay, enough whining...I'm leaving you with a picture if little Elsie.  She is growing so fast!  I'll be back soon!
Jane x

Saturday, September 26, 2015


Downtown Nashville.  Hello Mr. Ed!
I've been away much too long and I probably should have posted, "Bloggy Break".  Well anyway, most of you knew that The Husband and I put together a quickie vacation once all of the chaos most of us call summer had passed.  I have to admit that I am in charge of doing the itinerary so if there were any mishaps I only have myself to blame.  And you know...wherever Blondie goes, adventure follows.
We flew into Nashville early last Saturday morning.  Who knew it was an hour flight from Chicago?  I definitely failed geography.  I thought Tennessee was somewhere above and west of Georgia.  Imagine my surprise when I woke up disgruntled (after falling asleep before take off) that I
hadn't been served orange juice.  I was told to buckle up for landing.  Mmmmm...I thought we were still somewhere over Indiana. 
Loved Nashville.  We stayed at the Sheraton and had an evening out in the lively Music District.  One bar after another, huge windows open so that the live music spilled out on to the streets.  Everyone dancing and laughing and just enjoying the balmy night.  The Husband and I stopped at a few bars for a beer and a listen---it was so great.  I can't remember the last time I saw a live band and I love country music (and you, too, Blake and Luke).  
Our cabin in Franklin, TN
We were off to Franklin, Tennessee early the next morning and this was my whole premise for going to Nashville.  I had heard about so many of the girly trips to do the shopping, antiquing and junking in Franklin and Leiper's Fork.  Now trust me, The Husband is all man but he's my BFF as well.  And lest you think he sullenly follows along behind me holding my purchases...think again.  He usually sits on benches outside the shops but also wanders into stores that carry either Indian artifacts or outfitter clothing and supplies.  These shops are abundant in the South.  Both of us happy.  Check.  Check. 
We arrived in Franklin to a little cabin I had booked online.  It was on an 11 acre horse farm and the price was right.  Little did I know until we met the owner of the property that the little cabin you see above was actually physically moved from Kentucky by Wynonna Judd as a place for her little sister Ashley Judd to stay in.  The main house is just a few yards away.  We had a brief and limited tour of that house but it's inconsequential.  So Wynonna had many a party on the property and I could bore your with the stories, rather take up a lot of time and space on the blog, but man, if these walls could talk.
I loved the little cabin.  I have more pics on Instagram if you want a peek.  The bedroom was the only room upstairs and yes, this is the original Wynonna/Ashley/Shania Twain/Sheryl Crow bed.  I feel so cool!  Downstairs was a sweet little living room with a fireplace, a cute country kitchen and a full bath.  The owner, Caroline, loved to decorate in a sort of country/primitive way and it was perfect.  I loved that porch and swing---it looked out over the pasture with the horses she owns and boards.
The Barn
Across the road, more pasture, hay bales and critters.  Just too gorgeous.  Look at those blue skies!  The Husband kept marveling over the wood fences...just not something we see so much in the country area around us in the Midwest.   We were in  heaven.
Leiper's Fork, TN
We loved Franklin and spent the better part of two days there.  Another day we went to Leiper's Fork, a much smaller town in the opposite direction but one we were told not too miss.  There is a Puckett's Grocery in both towns...they are part restaurant, grocery store and live music venue in the evenings.  Here in Leiper's Fork, you'll find the very place you see above in my picture where a young Loretta Lynn got her start.  And I got my very first start on Chicken Fried Steak and Green Beans with mashed potatoes.  Seriously, I had it three times in Tennessee.  I totally embrace local food in spite of what it does to my svelte figure.  Hey--I'm on vacay!
After working off that lunch The Husband and I found this little area in back of Puckett's.  We sat down and shared a root beer. What a view.  I may copy and enlarge this.  It sums up the peacefulness of our time in Tennessee. 
We left Franklin and headed to our next destination, Gatlinburg.  A stop in Knoxville was very cool.  A university town, it was vibrant and happening.  We had a dinner at this outdoor café and simply enjoyed watching people come and go along this little parkway.  A music student serenaded us with his cello.  I sort of wanted to stay longer!
Cabin in Gatlinburg, TN
I am to blame, um, be the one to have booked the cabin in Gatlinburg.  Online it looked so rustic and romantic.  Nestled in the woods, secluded and in the middle of nature and all it's beasts...er, flora and fauna.  I'll cut to the chase.  I'm terrified of bears.  Have been and always will be. although I've never been in a place where I could even encounter a bear until this trip.  And I honestly never thought that they were so 'out there' when I booked.  To heighten my apprehension, one of the first places we visited,was an artisan shop up in the hills.  The owner, a local elderly lady told us that black bears were an everyday sight in her parking lot as they crossed the roads from a river to the woods.  Believe me, I had one eye on the door the whole time we were there.  And we were told time after time, don't bother them and they won't bother you.  Still...
The biggest plus of our cabin was the large hot tub on the balcony.  No way up or down, just off the studio.  But of course, I hear bears can climb trees.  Not too long after we arrived we were leaning over this balcony and I thought I was looking at turkeys on the ground below...turkeys without those big feathers.  And then three of them flew into the trees above us about 40 feet away.  Can turkeys fly?  No, vultures can and do.  I thought I was going to be identifying all sorts of pretty songbirds native of the south.  No.  Not Blondie.  Where Blondie goes, disaster follows.
In my defense, the second night there The Husband fell asleep about 7 or 9 o'clock and I paced our entire 500 square feet of cabin.  Finally I grabbed a towel, stripped off my clothes (no bathing suit, its all in storage somewhere in Michigan) and hopped into the hot tub.  A glass of wine in hand, I simply floated and watched the bubbles and lights.  A half hour of relaxation and liberation.  I know I sound lame. but it was a little victory. 
You might remember that The Husband took a huge hiking trip through Colorado with our sons and a few other guys back in May.  They really roughed it and he is so keen on hiking again.  He so wanted to do a hike in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and I really pushed myself to go along with it.  I couldn't pinpoint my apprehension and anxiety.  Having only a limited variety and amount  of shoes with me running the gamut of flip flops to ridiculously high heels, we went to an outfitter and I bought these sort of comfy trail/everyday walking type of shoes.  Aren't they cute?  I'll get a lot of use out of them.  But I didn't do the hike...I simply confessed to The Husband while literally feeling sick to my stomach that I had too many fears...fear of lions and tigers and bears, fear of not being in enough shape to do the long hike, fearing my asthma would hamper me, fear that anxiety would feed on anxiety and I would simply hyperventilate.  And I finally stood up straight and said, "This is your thing, not mine.  I can't be your companion in this anymore than I could be with you golfing 30 years ago. Do it alone if you want but don't bring me down."  He went and I huddled on the bed feeling like crap.  And then I thought of something I read recently and it will sound strange at first.  Don't blame others for the judgment you think they are passing on you.  You control your thoughts and you shouldn't buy into that.  It's all how you perceive it and YOU make that choice as to what you believe.  So...if I felt The Husband was thinking badly of me for not loving 'nature' as he did, how was I going to accept that?  I had to simply admit it wasn't for me.  I didn't want to so much as take a walk outside that cabin because of my fear, imagined or not.  Ultimately I accepted that and I know that's just me.  No more apologies.  Can you face your fears and get past them?  Well that's a subject for another post.  End of story.  And oh,  I was SO up and ready to leave this morning.  Ha!
We thought this kitty was part of the birdbath.  It was real and just getting  little drink!
Sorry to have gotten so philosophical when I already have so many pics.  I wanted to write a post in midstream but was so exhausted in the evenings.  I actually made dinner in many of the places we stayed.  We would be up early in the morning, grab something quick, i.e. unhealthy, have lunch in town and then need something for dinner at night when we just didn't want to go back out. 
Gatlinburg is a mecca of artisans.  As we drove in from the west I was startled and very much disappointed to see family types of resorts and venues filled with dinner shows, museums and parks that were parodies...to me at least it seemed, of country "hillbilly" life.  I imagine it boosts the economy here but I simply didn't appreciate it.   As we got closer to the Smokies and our cabin we came upon the true art of these talented country folk.  We bought beautiful pieces of pottery, hand crafted carved wood treasures and so many mementos of our trip. 
I loved a bustling part of Gatlinburg that was a variety restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and everything under the sun. The crowds were mostly adults (with most children back in school) and we fit right in with tourists from every place conceivable.  I love to talk to shop owners...The Husband usually has to drag me out.  He loves to chit chat with people around us in lines, restaurants and bars though.  This is a fun picture of us at a little Mexican rooftop bar.  I really loved this town. :)
We arrived at our condo in Asheville this morning.  It's in the 60's and it has been pouring buckets since we arrived with not much let up in sight.  I simply don't care.  I'm home.
I'll try to visit all of you soon.  I appreciate your comments and try to get around a bit everyday.  I truly believe blogging is a two way street.  :)  And it may sound contradictory but you can see more pics and snippets of the past 2 weeks on my Instagram...look for the button above.  
Until next time...
Jane xx  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Autumn fruit and pinecones in old dough bowl on my dining table
Hello!  I'm sitting here in my cozy den with my feet up ready to write my post after what seems to have been an hour of uploading and editing my photos.  Posting is very time consuming for me and for that reason I'm lucky to get out one per week.  I just noticed my next post will be number 650.
I sometimes think of them as short essays.  So, as much as I want to get around more often but not have so much for all of you to read at once, I think I'm going to continue to fail at that.  Bear with me.
Writing has become much more of a presence in my life since I started writing for the lake newspaper.  I have a deadline and I've learned a lot about myself and self-discipline as a result of that.  My column is a full page spread with 4-5 photos of my own.  And I was recently very chuffed to see that the editor, who titled my column himself as "Lake Life" recently changed it to "Lake Life With Jane".   Anyway, I have to have the October column in by Thursday night and of course, I'm a procrastinator with a capital 'P'. 
Old cabinet in living room
I brought some of my fall decorations out, just a few touches to add here and there.  I think I was spurred on by a trip to the grocery store early Sunday morning for dog food.  I walked by some sunflowers at quite a nice price.  Once I brought them home and with a sweet Indian Summer breeze blowing through all of my open windows, I simply felt like adding some bright colors and warmth.  And, my ulterior motive was to have photos for my column. :)
Lower part of the same old cabinet in living room (!)
I keep my decorations pretty neutral but most of my fall pieces go back years and years when everything was bright orange.  I'm finding that I like a little bit of that here and there.  It's real and true.  Accept nature in all it's color and glory, not to match your décor. 

What really makes me smile is how much I held back on my mantel.  This huge fireplace has always been the bane of my existence, simply for it's monstrousness.  As time goes on I get a little more affectionate about it, like a cranky old relative who eventually pulls on your heart strings as you grow to love those sharp edges, imperfections and a steadfast refusal to budge.  I know this guy will never leave us, it's The Husband's pride and joy. 
Carol from Art And Sand made me this last year.  In a unique giveaway, she asked her friends to tell her what they would have on a banner that she'd create.  This was my 'word' and I was one of the winners.  It was co cool to pull it out the other day and it's at home on The Monster. 
I have three windows I alternate on my mantel...I simply love them.  I used to have a vintage mirror but Emily stole it.  Okay, I admit, The Husband and I were going out antiquing one day and Emily, about 19 at that time asked us to find a vintage mirror for her room.  And we did.  Just gorgeous.  And for awhile she let me use it above the mantel.  When she got married and moved into her own home she took it with her.  Sob!  But, I have my windows.  I added a few fall colored leaves and a wire acorn filled with potpourri.  Plants I bought on our jaunt to the burbs that I wrote about in my last post.  Simple.  For once. :)
Finally, a little container of pots with fall flowers in the family room. 
We had a nice dinner tonight.  I have to admit that when the kids were young I relied on spaghetti and a jar of red sauce along with a loaf of bread and butter for a quick dinner.  Not healthy but better than a can of 'Spaghettios'.  Still, The Husband is not a fan of pasta and a jarred sauce so I've been tinkering with my own sauces for quite awhile.  Tonight I did  Bolognese sauce which basically involves adding meat to your tomato sauce.  Here you go:
Jane's Bolognese Sauce
1 pound Italian sausage
2 T butter
1 medium yellow onion
2 carrots thinly sliced
1 stalk of celery thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 T dried fennel
2 T dried Italian seasoning
1 T cinnamon
Pinch of S&P
1 pound cooked spaghetti
1/2 cup reserved water from cooked spaghetti
Brown sausage in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Remove to a colander to drain.  In  the same pan add the butter and saute the veggies.  When somewhat soft add the canned tomatoes and remaining seasonings.  Simmer on medium heat 1 hour, stirring every now and then and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  After 1 hour most of the liquid from the tomatoes should be evaporated.  Add 1/2 cup of the water in which you cooked the spaghetti...this will not add anything except starch to bind everything together.  Arrange spaghetti on plates and top with sauce.  I served this with crusty bread and butter.  This makes a huge amount...could easily serve 6.  I love the leftovers!  Remember that the sauce is going to take an hour not counting the prep---you do not want to be surprised if you decide to make this a half hour before dinnertime! (hate recipes like that).  Enjoy!
Still working on that den.  For such a tiny room it's taking a long time.  I am the type that once I get things the way I want them I rarely change anything up except for some easily moved around accessories.  I was so excited to have found this table at Pier 1 for a great price.  It's a mahogany brown on top and the base is black.  The finish is stunning.  I ordered it at the store as they didn't have it in stock after I saw it online.  The Husband came along to pick it up Saturday.  He is a lover of fine furniture and really wasn't expecting anything up to his standards but he knows this room is my baby.  Once we unwrapped it and set it where we thought it should be, we then fought over that, er...discussed it and finally stood back, admired, fawned over and basically treated it like our firstborn.  I can't say enough about Pier 1.  Quality with a capital 'Q' (the second time I've done this in my post--I'm competing with Sue Grafton).
Okay.  On the vacation front.  Leaning very much towards a flight to Nashville and after a few days a drive to Gatlinburg where I have found a great little cabin in the woods along a lake.  Blissfully rustic and quiet.  A few days later we'll drive to our place in Asheville and after 10 whole days following months of nothing but busyness, chaos, nerve wracking events and a freaking broken arm...we will fly back to Chicago.  And then the holiday season will be coming around and I will be back to neurotically posting about my crazy life.
Right now I want to give a shout out to a lady that got me started in blogging (and I tell her this all the time),  Lidy, from French Garden House.  She is a remarkable woman with an awesome shop filled with French antiques and goodies.  She currently has a feature in Victoria magazine.  Click here and have a wonderful visit with this lovely soul.
Lastly...love and prayers to the family of our dear friend Ceekay who passed away Monday after a 9 year battle with ovarian cancer.  She was a lovely and brave lady who had a blog that was always lively and fun.  And send some hope and prayers to those struggling along the Hungarian borders.  It's heartbreaking to watch but worse to be living.   And of course, here in our country, let the wildfires in California end soon without any further loss of life of or animals. 
Jane x

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Remember my granddog, Tulo?  He looks a little different as Jeff has him groomed drastically during the warm months.  See his pink tongue hanging off the side of his chops?  Yes, Tulo Droolo for sure.  We had the big guy yesterday and overnight.  We don't really do this much as our house is small, he is relentless in wanting to play with Milo, and since Milo is going on twelve---well, it wears my baby out.  And of course, I have to give Milo a good scrub in the bath after all the Droolo (if you know what I mean).  And Layla cowers in our bedroom.  We play a sort of musical chairs rotating them indoors and out, to eat and have water.  It's hard but we love Tulo, he's really only comfortable with Milo as far as other dogs and I spoil him terribly.
In spite of a 4 day heatwave with temps hitting 92 degrees in the shade, I had to get these dogs outside.  As I watered all my pots and garden beds, I also watered a big section of grass to cool it off for the dogs to lie in, and that they did.  I also bought Tulo a big bone to keep him busy.
Emily popped over early evening with her pup, Rusty (the Boston Terrier you see here).  They roughhoused and really wore each other out.  And now you can see that Rusty has confiscated The Bone.  Milo had it for awhile and as I write this very minute, Layla is gnawing away on it at my feet. 
I awoke this morning to Tulo howling and crying---pitiful.  Thankfully Jeff came for him about 10 a.m.   As with grandkids, you get to give them back to their parents. ;-) 

We had a rather nice Labor Day weekend.  We were sort of like fish out of water.  I asked The Husband, "What does everyone do on Labor Day?"  We have always been at the lakehouse (and what a wild weekend that is as it's sort of the grand finale of summer).  We each discreetly texted the kids inquiring what their plans were and they all had something going on.  Ouch!  Come on, I said to The Husband-let's get out of Dodge. 
I think I've mentioned that we like to explore small towns.  We even make vacations of it.  One of our favorites is a historic town about a half hour away,  Most of the homes are well over a million dollars.  The downtown area is fantastic, while most of the shops are a little over our budget we love to browse and the restaurants are great.  I know some of us have problems budging our husbands to do things like this.  My guy has always been pretty accepting of strolling through towns, having peeks into various shops and sometimes actually finding something he wants to buy.  But most times he finds a bench like this and sits and does a little 'people watching'.   This little town had an abundance of spots to sit and the flowers and plants made it all so pleasant.
I love all the little shops.  One complaint I have is with most of the apparel shops.  If you are over a size 8 you can absolutely forget finding anything no matter how gorgeous it is.  Clothing in these places are teeny weeny and it's so disheartening.  I focus on things like purses and scarves and sunglasses.  I'm not a size 2 or 8 or 10 and I feel the sales ladies simply avoiding me---what can they show me?  It's not snobbery, it's just the way things are. 
There are two floral design shops I love to visit.  I have a few cute pots that look sort of weathered and aged that I picked up awhile ago.  I never used them outdoors and I was really wanting to have some houseplants although I'm a notorious indoor plant killer.  This is one of my fave shops.  Love the name. :)
Here's a happily potted couple of ivy plants in their new home.  You know I love ivy as my brick house is covered in it.  Indoors...well I lost a few  pots.  The owner of the shop advised me to keep the soil moist always.,  Any other tips from you ladies?
Another plant I went gaga over was an ornamental oregano plant.  Not as tasty as it's cousin that's used for cooking, it makes for a gorgeous potted beauty.
Look at this close up photo.  The flowers resemble little roses with pink leaves.  Lot's of sun will give you this effect.  I'm going to give it some time outside where it will get some sun (it's also adaptable to low temperatures so that's good).  This is my new baby.  I'll be heartbroken if anything happens to it.
All I purchased on our little Saturday excursion were these plants.  Here you can see my assistant, aka, The Husband (remember my bad arm).  Oh, and he has a bunch of fresh cut lavender in his right hand that I scored for free.  Yes!  By the way, he fell in love with a wallet.  Man oh man, this guy has had the same wallet for possibly longer than the 34 years I've known him.  A guy and his wallet are a beautiful thing.  Never interfere no matter how tattered and wretched it looks.  This one is curved in a way that it fits into a front pocket very easily.  So glad he found something for himself.
Some shops are simply overwhelming.  You have to take them with a grain of salt.  Most times my eyes flit over everything and barely rest on anything.  I may pick up a book or a funny greeting card but 9 times out of 10 we say hello, thank you and goodbye.  I feel very differently about places that feature items from local artists and creative people...in this case so many things are so massed produced it wears on me.   I thought of some design advice I recently learned...leave some blank spaces, the eye needs a place to rest to absorb the beauty and interest of everything else.  These sort of shops make me dizzy.  Oh, I sound terribly critical.  It really was a pretty place and smelled so good!
Whoa, I hope I didn't bore you silly with canine stories and our adventures in shopping.  I have to mention the highlight was having dinner at the Mexican restaurant we have grown to love, Cine.  Incredible as always.  Sorry. this is not a picture of my gorgeous dinner there, it's a quick meal I made one night this week while we were in the midst of our heat wave.  Our outdoor grill is not working and while we wait to get a person out to take care of it I'm doing everything possible stove top.  I try to tell my kids that they can make some fast and budget friendly meals that taste like a gourmet restaurant (or diner).  Chili dogs with cheddar cheese and chips?  Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches with a make ahead potato salad.  I'm not a frugal gourmet by any means but I try to balance the budget and nights when I simply don't want a lot of prep and cooking time with some simple but interesting meals.  Last week I picked up a small, sliced, cooked ham.  I have one of those flat grill pans that fit over two stove burners so you can do pancakes, bacon, burgers, whatever you want,  Simultaneously I cooked up slices of the ham, layered Munster cheese over the pieces the last minute to melt and at the same time at the other end of the pan, heated up some slices of good French bread rubbed with fresh garlic cloves and a smear of butter.  Meanwhile I had one sweet potato cut into thin slices in the oven (save time and heat from the oven by starting off the potatoes in your microwave foe 2-3 minutes).  We were loving this dinner.  Totally thinking outside of the box and killing it with frugal, fresh and tasty new ideas.  A little Blondie tip. :)
So, from the heart and soul, I'm sure you're tired of hearing about the old arm.  4 more weeks of therapy ahead,  Still not moving anything above or beyond what I was able to do since this happened.  I've been having an indescribable ache the last few days that only icing it helps---as in 3 times a day minimum. Sometimes when my thoughts get a little dark I freak myself out imagining I may never be able to move my wrist again.  Silly.  But I am left handed.  But the therapy and icing helps. The Husband frowns on me bringing the ice pack to bed which I had thought was grand since it's about the only time I stay still.  A cold bag of ice rolling on to your husband's bare back in bed in the middle of the night does not a good marriage make. 
So I found this little stenciled saying on canvas last week at Marshall's.  My mantra these days.  I continue trying to find the time to map out a vacation for us at the end of the month.   This morning I met with an itinerary which The Husband left under the jar of my flavored coffee so I couldn't miss it.  A little weaving of flying into Nashville, visiting several towns in Tennessee including Gatlinburg (no offense but Gatlinburg?) and then on to our place in Asheville.  I had mentioned I sort of wanted to be by the ocean for a bit.  He looked at me like I had two heads.  "Why do you want to be by the ocean?"  Duh?  We have less than a week to decide where we want to go if we want to get good air fare. 
Now, I know I'm whining about vacation and some may just never get the opportunity to have one.   Bear with me.  My life never seems to be easy.  However this sign that now hangs very prominently  where I can see it everyday is the darn truth.  It keeps me moving.
See you soon!
Jane x

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Hello!  It's been pretty uneventful around here and that's a good thing, right?  I'm getting caught up on reading, cooking up a storm, cleaning up the garden beds and well, just enjoying a little of quiet bliss.  Oh, and watching a bit more TV now that I have this cozy and comfy den that I shared in my last post.  In the past few days I've watched Just Go With It, a comedy with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston.  Everything that comes out of Sandler's mouth is too funny.  I love a movie that makes me feel lighthearted so I re-watched Love Actually, Something's Got To Give, Falling In Love and Best In Show.  I made an attempt to go with some more 'recent' movies, one was The Silver Lining Playbook but it was making me not only as depressed as the characters, but a little bored.  I couldn't finish it.  Can anyone recommend a few good movies that I can rent on Xfinity?
So a repeat from Instagram.  This is a picture of my island.  God forbid I need to roll out dough or make cookies...it will take me twenty minutes to clear it all off.  I just love to see the things that make me smile.  The rustic wood and marble top make for some fantastic vignettes.  Some of you might remember how I begged and cajoled The Husband into agreeing to buying this.  And as practical and perfect it is for my kitchen, I still play 'dress up' with it. This little arrangement is sort of cool...a bit organic.  I have bananas ripening, plum tomatoes filling in for my slow growing babies outside in the pot, a bouquet of spray roses from the grocery (just $5 for these...wow!). and some ivy I'm trying re-root.  It makes me feel good to look at it and that's nice.  :)
I hope those of you who follow me on Instagram don't find my pictures to be too repetitive.  I do think that I give more of a story behind them on my blog than Instagram allows.  If you'd like to follow me, just click the icon on my sidebar. 
And speaking of tomatoes, I've only made Caprese salads.  I have a lot of green tomatoes on the plant and with our current heat wave I hope they ripen up soon so I can make a red sauce or something!!!  I'm using up the basil in my garden quite well, too.  Tomatoes and basil go together like peanut butter and jelly...or something along those lines.
On the garden front I still have phlox blooming (must add more), hydrangeas looking good (adding coffee grounds around them, heard  this was good. Yes?  No?).  And finally my morning glories that grow rampant up my back porch railing and trellis around this time of year.  I have to trim the vines quite as bit as I've had them wrap around my herbs and strangle the life out of them.  Trimming the long winding vine parts also helps to direct the energy to the flower buds.  Around November when everything has dried up, I pinch off the seed pods and crumble them into the same garden bed beside the porch.  I pull off the old vines and come spring, once I water they start to pop up like crazy.   End of story.
Son Kevin and Mary Clare stopped by with little Elsie on Sunday.  Oh, we just want to eat her up.  I wish I could hold her longer but my arm just wants to give out.  Still, we get such a kick out of her.  She's sitting up pretty unassisted for long periods of times which you can see here.  And she's cutting teeth.  Kevin says she is always happy and never cries unless she is hungry or tired  That's really great for a 'first baby".  Emily was very difficult from day one, I think she cried and howled for the first six weeks.  Not a great way to start motherhood,
Yep, she's a happy, gentle, good natured little girl.  And that's very much the way Kevin and MC are.  Good genes.  She smiles and giggles nonstop.  :)
One last pic...remember the cute photo of her at son Jeff's wedding two weeks ago?  This is another shot.  She almost looks like a baby doll.  Oh my gosh, she's just so pretty, I love her to pieces, we all do. 
A simple but delicious recipe with little prep, a tiny bit of stovetop action and then finished off in the oven while you get on with something else.  Emily gave me the recipe after telling me she was making it for dinner.  We were simultaneously making it last night.  It was just so good, I hope you Pin it and try it. 
Baked Chicken & Chorizo
2 T olive oil, divided
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
12 oz. soft chorizo sausage, crumbled
2 cups medium diced yellow baby potatoes
One red onion, roughly chopped
2 t. dried oregano
2 t. salt and pepper each,
Zest of one large orange.
In a medium size ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven heat 1 T. of the olive oil over medium heat.  Lightly brown chicken thighs about 3 minutes each side.  Turn heat off.   Add crumbled chorizo sausage, then top with diced potatoes.  Layer red onion over, then oregano and S&P.  Grate orange zest over the top and then drizzle the remaining T of olive oil.  It will look like the above photo.
Remove from stovetop to oven  pre-heated to  425 degrees.  Bake 30 minutes covered, then 30 minutes uncovered.  Serves 4.
This dish was above and beyond delicious.  Very flavorful, filling and a bit spicy but not overpowering.  I served it with a simple handful of baby greens and cucumber along with a basic vinaigrette and the juice of a lime.  This was a cool balance.of all the flavors.  I plan to have a big family dinner and serve this.  It won't be hard to double or even triple the recipe and much of it can be made ahead of time.  I hope you try it.
I've really had a relaxing few days and it seems it will continue..hopefully.  Chicago and the surrounding suburbs are having the second heat wave of the summer, in the 90's tomorrow.  I have the feeling the dogs and I will be getting little if any outdoor time.  And...The Husband very casually announced to me that he hasn't taken any vacation time this year.  To be honest, with all we've been doing, especially with Jeff and Deirdre's wedding, I never really noticed.  We've always taken a 2 week stretch at the lake in August and a few three day weekends here and there,  but obviously this couldn't happen with the lakehouse in such disarray.  He's looking at his schedule and good naturedly told me the itinerary is mine.  Hmmmm..two weeks to fiddle and plan, within bounds of course.  A visit to our place in Asheville for sure and maybe a few jaunts south?  The East Coast possibly for a little time oceanfront?  Oh my gosh---this is really exciting and no, I don't take it for granted.  The Husband runs the ship at work and he's always the last one to abandon, so to speak..  Anyway, we can be taking off at any time depending on his schedule.  You'd think I would roll with this but no, I'll be a mess as usual overthinking and micromanaging everything.  I'll keep you posted. 
Hope all of you are off to a fabulous week!
Jane xx