Sunday, April 23, 2017

SPRINGING: CURB APPEAL IDEAS & A FEW HEALTHY RECIPES


Hi everyone!  Well, if these aren't the most glorious days.  We've been hovering in the 60's with blue skies and very little rain.  My tulips and daffodils are popping up like crazy.  The dogs love when I head out with my camera to take pictures.  I'm so looking forward to having an active summer with them here in the backyard and at the lake.  Milo is really slowing down although he's physically doing super.  He's a bit on the deaf side but I can identify.  Sometimes he goes up and down the porch steps a little slowly so I think he really needs to strengthen up those hips and legs.  As for me,  oh yeah.

As I stroll around the Ponderosa, I see all of the projects and plantings I want to do this spring and summer, and of course, I see my problems.  I have Creeping Charlie spreading near my shed.  I researched it and all you can do is cut it out or make a small trench around it to keep it from getting out further.  I have the usual bare spots to seed and a lot of mulch to add to beds.  Strenuous work but the rewards all summer and fall are worth it.  I can't wait to get my patio all fluffed, and then out there with some Sun Tea and a stack of books.  Heaven.



One of my favorite houses in the neighborhood 

We have some major work to be done on the front of the  house.  Our concrete porch, sidewalk and driveway need to be replaced.  I have a mason coming tomorrow for a quote.  I'm going to have new sod put down...I just can't seem to revive my lawn after almost losing it to grubs a few years ago.  And I'm going to replace some shrubs and bushes.  I'm pretty ambitious but I also have my work cut out for me at the lake.  

I took Madelyn for a walk in her stroller last week and before I knew it we had been out and about for an hour and a half.  So much to look at and drink in.  She enjoyed the fresh air and I got some great ideas for the update on the house by looking close up at some of my favorites on the block and a few surrounding ones.  The house above has always been a favorite; we have the same light brick and blue shutters although mine are a bit brighter.  The landscaping here is much prettier when it's all in bloom and greened up.  The stone edge around the garden bed is perfect and we have a huge amount of these stone pavers at the lake from previous projects.  



While I'm giving you a little city tour you can see a bit more of why I love living here.  Most of the homes in our area were built in the 1940's.  If you go 10 blocks west you are going to see huge colonials built around the turn of the century.  So many younger couples buy their first home in the neighborhood or area where they grew up.  All of my kids did but for Abby, who is enjoying the upscale Northside life!  Additions to homes to accommodate growing families and/or open up cramped spaces is pretty common.  Curb appeal is very important here, it can make or break the sale of a home.  I've always enjoyed doing yard work.  Until my asthma became really bad and unpredictable, I always mowed the lawn myself and did all the trimming, edging, raking, etc.  Now I have a service that does just the weekly mowing...I do the rest and it keeps the cost down.  



While strolling with Miss Madelyn, I was also on a mission to look at the different sort of porches to choose from.  I really like this one, the soft curve of the sides and the way each step rounds out over the next.  I hope the estimate isn't crazy high.  

This will probably be the last time we do a big update on this house.  We've been here thirty-one years and at some point we have to see which of our three homes we want to settle down in.  I love Asheville, but I could never see myself living in a condo full time.  I simply love to be outdoors too much.  The lakehouse makes me beyond happy.  It can however, be a little too quiet during the week being secluded and away from the hustle and bustle of city life...that can get tiresome.  Still, there is a lot to offer to full time residents; The Yacht Club,  Gardening Club, The Kayak Ladies Group, and much more.  Our town and the surrounding ones have a lot of shops, antique markets and restaurants.  I definitely wouldn't become a hermit.  

And finally this house here.  It holds my heart.  I brought my babies home from the hospital here.  I've watched it change inside and out a thousand ways.  I can make my way from one room to another without turning on a single light.  So it finally comes down to what to hang on to.  The Husband will probably retire in about two years.  I'm proud that he had the foresight to make property investments, to me it was more of a 'good life' investment!



I've been playing with food a lot lately.  As soon as I start getting serious about dropping weight, I begin with buying the healthiest, freshest food I can find and then inspire myself to cook by finding ideas for far from boring meals and snacks.  

I fiddled with this quiche  that you see above because I was just getting tired of my usual glorified baked omelet with cheese and broccoli.  I wanted a good punch of flavor and vegetables that did more than add texture.  The key was cooking up a few veggies for just a minute to let the natural flavors come out before adding to the egg mixture.  Another overhaul was using small chunks of hard cheeses rather than the standard grated cheddar.  What an incredible difference it made.  You will like this for dinner with a salad and bread, and if you have leftovers, for breakfast.

Quiche with Roasted Red Peppers and Asparagus Tips


1 T butter
7 large eggs
3/4 c milk
1 c shopped shallots
1 c asparagus tips
3 green onions, chopped
1 c roasted red pepper (from the jar packed in olive oil)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 c of dry cheese such a Parmesan, Romano or pecorino, roughly chopped
A few pinches of dried seasonings such as thyme, tarragon or rosemary.
S&P to taste


Whisk together the eggs and milk.  Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and saute the veggies on low for about 2 minutes.  Do not allow them to get limp.  Whisk them into the egg mixture along with the cheeses.  Stir in seasonings.

Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and bake another 30-40 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.  Serves 4.




 Emily is working from home since having Madelyn, and she is jumping on the planned meal bandwagon.  She's a lot like me; I was never really big on cooking until I had a family.  It evolved into a passion quickly as it opened up a creative side of myself that I didn't know existed.  I hope she continues to explore her talents.  She was raving recently about the way she had made Brussels sprouts the evening before for dinner.  I had about a half pound so I got the instructions from her.  They were outstanding.  The Husband isn't too keen on these "little green balls", but we were fighting over the last one.  Hope you try them!

Emily's Brussels Sprouts

1 lb. (more or less) Brussels sprouts, cleaned and bottoms trimmed off
2 T olive oil
1 c finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 t garlic powder
a pinch of red pepper flakes
S&P

Cut the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise and place in a bowl or zip lock bag with the remaining ingredients.  Mix (or shake) well.  Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with the seasonings.  Bake at 350 for about 1/2 hour, stirring once.  Remove from oven when lightly browned and soft in the center.  




I had to smile Saturday morning when I was catching up on reading blogs.  My longtime friend, Lidy Baars from French Garden House posted about a lovely sandwich she made and enjoyed in her flower garden.  The recipe followed and I sat up straight.  I had made something similar the evening before on a whim. 

 I've been hearing so much about avocado toast, people swear by the healthiness of the avocado as a spread instead of butter or jam, all that protein and good fat I guess.  I was intrigued but I wanted something more substantial.  Out to the kitchen I went and this is what I came up with using what I had on hand.  It was incredible.  You can make your own version using what you have or like, and I think it's a perfect for a delicious summertime lunch outdoors, perhaps with some homemade sweet potato fries or baked carrot chips.   Enjoy. And stop by Lidy's to see her version.

Jane's Toasted Avocado Sandwich

4 slices of good bread (whole wheat or thinly sliced French bread)
1 avocado, cut in half, peeled and pit removed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch of coarse sea salt
A few grinds of black pepper
1 plum tomato, thinly sliced
1/2 (more or less) English cucumber, thinly sliced
6 thin slices of mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese

Mash up the avocado in a small bowl with the seasonings.  Spread on two slices of the toast.  Layer the tomato, cucumber and cheese and top with remaining slices of toast.  Serves 2.

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I want to ask if one of you can check to see if my photos and recipes are Pinning okay.  When you hover over a pic, there should be the Pinterest icon.  It's not working for me so I need to fix that if any of you want to keep these recipes on your boards.   



Daddy & Maddy:  Warm weather grilling in the backyard


I hope you all have a wonderful week.  Our weather looks great so far.  Tomorrow I'm going to take Madelyn over to the university campus a few blocks away where everything is blooming and the duck are back at the pond.  It's so beautiful there, I'll definitely get some more pics of 'my big little city'!

I also want to tell you that you can find me HERE on Instagram.   I usually have a picture up every couple of days, I think you'll like it.


Jane xxx

Friday, April 14, 2017

A STRESS FREE EASTER:: TIPS, RECIPES, PHOTOS & MEMORIES


Hi everyone!  I wanted to pop in before our busy weekend and Easter Sunday.  I am so low key this year that it doesn't even feel like me, much less the Jane you know.  I was doing a little blog visiting the other day, admiring some spring vignettes and then it hit me like a smack in the face...I didn't have one single piece anywhere celebrating spring or Easter.  I absolutely spaced out on bringing anything up from the hoarding room.  I have so many bunnies in all shapes and sizes; platters, dishes, banners...way overboard amounts of stuff, and I simply put off bringing anything out.  I was thinking that I'd bring up a few decorations...favorite rabbits or hares or lambs the next time I did laundry.  Nope.  I think the late Easter had a few us off kilter.  I really need to make some signs of spring all around tomorrow.  After all, I have little kiddos that I need to impress.  A year or two ago when I brought up way too many cartons and bins, many of my Easter guests were weirded out.  The Husband remarked, "It was something about all those beady eyes everywhere you looked."



I really am going simple this year and I'm already ahead of the game.  I'm feeling better physically, I think I finally beat the virus.  A big Yay here.  You may never hear me complain about my health EVER, but then again, I'm Calamity Jane.  

I believe we are going to have just the kids for dinner.  That's nice as we can all fit around the table.  Last year (and many years before), we had so many that we were all spread out with plates balanced on our laps.  I don't like that.  I would love to have a big dining room, but after thirty years at this house, I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon.  Still, it's all about family, friends, love and gratefulness.  Before I tallied this up, I had planned to have a buffet and not actually set the table.  Now I think I can and I'll have a real tablescape picture for you next week.  The first in a long time.  I've fallen out of the thrill of playing with my dishes, but sometimes I feel like, I have a ton...use them.  Be creative.  Push myself to try out new ideas.  Maybe even invite people over for dinner!  ;-D



My curtains arrived as well as the new coffee table I found at Hayneedle.  If you've never been to this website, hop on over.  Ahem.  Cool stuff and great prices.  The curtains were found at Overstock as I mentioned in my last post.  They are super heavy and lined.  Maybe I missed that in the description online.  I was so, so impressed with the quality.  The way they were folded over cardboard pieces and sealed in plastic bags, I didn't have to press them at all.  I love the colors and pattern and I'm shopping the house for more blue/green/aqua pieces.  

I can't always vouch for what you get online since you can't touch, feel, or really see what you are going to get, but I've been lucky.  I remain positive that the options online for any store is phenomenal.  I feel that the most important thing you can do is check the reviews.  Buyers opinions that range anywhere from the quality to color and more, is a deal maker or breaker.  

Sorry that this looks more like a picture of My Milo (it is) but it was also the best shot I had of the window on short notice.  Man, he needs to shed a few pounds before lake season.  My last post has a better shot of the curtains.


And this is the coffee table.  It's planked style, reclaimed wood.  It has a dark stain and oddly, it matches my side tables bought a few years ago from another place.  I love that it has that lower shelf to store books, magazines, and the everyday clutter you hide away when you're too lazy to toss it out or find a better spot.  Again, it's from Hayneedle, my new love.   And they have no idea who I am in case you're wondering.  :)

I hope all of you are ready, or at least calm if you are hosting a big get together or have plans for Easter Sunday.  And if you've followed me for awhile, you know I am a scatterbrained, over~achiever, who spends more time fretting over details than enjoying herself.  I think after being so terribly sick and worn out over the past few months, I'm so grateful to have some energy and drive back and I just want to pace it.  

My menu is much the same:

Ham
Baked Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Macaroni and Cheese
Corn
Dinner Rolls

I've left out two dishes that will be new this year.  I always have two veggies, my boys will only eat corn and many love to pile that up on top of their potatoes.  This grosses me out but I personally don't like any of my food to touch.  Usually I have asparagus as a second vegetable since it's so 'spring~like'.  This year I decided to do the carrots that I wrote about recently.  I couldn't find a picture but they are a hit.  Simple sliced carrots, cooked up in a skillet with a little water, then boiled down with a sprinkle of sugar to caramelize them to a slight char.  Such a hit and I can do these ahead of time and reheat in the oven.

The other dish I'm adding is risotto, or Italian arborio rice.  It's rich and creamy, more like pasta than your ordinary rice.  You can add any additions; veggies, meat, cheese, herbs or spices, for example, that you wish.  The downside is that it's normally cooked on your stove top and involves gradual additions of broth as the rice soaks it up.  Many times it has taken me a good 20 minutes standing there to make it.  Who has the time?  I found a recipe for oven baked risotto and I was thrilled because it really is worthy of a holiday dish or even having guests over.  I actually test drove it tonight and it was a hit with The Husband and I.  Here is the recipe...I forgot to take a picture tonight.  This is also something you can make ahead and pop in the oven to reheat for dinner.  

I have a few selections of cheese, meats and crackers for an appetizer along with my new found love, peach Bellinis.  I found a mix near the champagne in a huge liquor store nearby.  It's called Just Peachy, and you simply serve it with a splash of orange juice. 


Homemade Almond Bark Candy, 2015


We have a crowd coming for dessert and everyone brings something.  I'm rounding it out with my favorite springtime almond bark, angel food cupcakes topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, and pound cake with lemon curd and berries.  I read an article about Ina Garten and her way of taking shortcuts.  She says that she often buys a plain cake from her bakery and adds a topping of her own.  So I was able to get a pound cake from the bakery section of my store, frozen, and I can keep it that way until Sunday.  Just before serving I'll pour over some lemon curd, also store bought, and top it with raspberries.  I have never been this savvy!!!!!

The almond bark is simple.  Heat it up in your microwave, spread it out on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper, refrigerate for 15 minutes, and then sprinkle on your toppings.  Store it in an airtight container and it lasts for days.  Mmmmmm...

I hope you find some of these ideas helpful.  If you have any questions about the recipes, send me an email.  

 I wish all of you a wonderful and blessed Easter.  See you next week!

Jane x

Friday, April 7, 2017

FLOWERS, DECORATING, RECIPES & GOOD READS


Beautiful Tulips (sadly not my own)

Hello April...and hello to all of you, my friends!  I have to say that we had a few days of feeling like spring was just around the corner, but that was just Chicago and Mother Nature hooking up in their devious ways again.  No worries here, it will come.  In the meantime we have good excuses for staying in, lounging around, reading, binge watching TV, and eating carbs.  We've had tons of rain all week, but that's what umbrellas are for.  Enough said.

My tulips are coming up strong; bright green leaves poking about 5 inches out of the ground, and soon they will show their colors.  Do you ever have that dilemma in wanting to cut them to bring indoors, or let them be as they are, free and beautiful in your yard or garden beds?  I try to plant a few dozen every fall but sometimes it gets late and my poor fingers can't take the cold.  If I could possibly amass a zillion colorful bulbs, I might not be so cheap about cutting them. ;-D



My first shamrock victim 

I feel like I'm nearing the end of this insane mystery of what sort of virus I have, how to treat it and how to get well from all of the infections I've had in the past 6 months.  No, the virus hasn't been determined and I was back at the hospital again yesterday, giving away my blood for free.  If it can be pinpointed there may be meds that can help with the weakness and fatigue.  I no longer take the medication that depleted my immune system, but I have no idea how long it takes for the body to recover.  And finally, the drug my doctor has been waiting for has now been approved by the FDA.  I will find out Friday if I'll be eligible for insurance coverage.  

Geesh, I meant to keep that short.  So many of you seem confused by what is wrong with me but I think I just made it more complicated.  Hopefully I will be healthy again within the next few weeks and my posts will be shorter and more simple.   



Appetizing or no?

I wrote in my last post that The Husband and I were eating a lot of frozen, store bought pizza's (among other frozen store bought items),  given my lack of desire to do anything but sleep.  I really do love cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients so this was sort of like waving my little white flag.  And then so many of you said, "Hey, it's okay.  We do it all the time!"  I had to show you a pizza that we really love.  Isn't the box insane?  And there are so many more varieties to choose from.  Brands and manufacturers have gotten wise about all the nasties we don't want in our store bought foods; preservatives, tons of sodium, artificial additives and coloring, etc.  So I guess  this isn't so bad if you want to have something on hand when you are tired (or have an incredibly hard to get rid of mysterious virus for which you are seeing 4 doctors, giving away 2 liters of blood a week, and have mastered the art of peeing in a plastic container the size of a shot glass.  



Simple and Healthy Artichoke and Bean Salad

Days filled with energy are meant to be grabbed like the tail of a kite.  Love them.  And I have to not only catch up on the cobwebs and dustballs, but also laundry that has sat in the washing machine so long it has mold growing on it.  Have you ever forgotten laundry in the machine so many times that you've had to wash it over and over again with copious amounts of bleach?  And in spite of the grocery store being my own personal little Disney World, I was scraping the dredges from the fridge and pantry to make dinners for my poor husband.  I was victorious when I finally made a few decent meals.  One of them was an egg quiche made with crumbs from the vegetable bins in the fridge.  I guess that's my measure for productivity these days.    

To get on the right track when I have these enthusiastic bursts of energy, it's a no brainer to eat more veggies and greens.  I love my beef, chicken and pork, but I'm no dummy that something like the above is much better for you.  Experiment.  I've been on a roll Pinning salads that are slightly off the board.  Beans are so full of protein, as well as cheese (as long as you are not eating it in chunks) and I love the texture they add.  This salad was simply a 5 oz. jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained, and slightly rinsed.  Brown them in a skillet with a little drip of veggie oil.  Add a clove or two of minced garlic and stir for a minute.  Toss with the Canellini beans and serve over fresh baby greens with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.  Top with shaved Parmesan cheese.  You can have this as a side salad or as a healthy dinner with a loaf of fresh bread.  



Creamed Chipped Beef

Now I hate to go all unhealthy on you but I've been craving carbs.  I usually avoid them like the plague as I know I have to work much more physically to burn them off.  But since I've been ill, I feel I crave them all the time.  Not the cookies and cakes and your decadent sweets...but rice, potatoes, bread and pasta.  When you are sick you sort of relish the doctor's orders to rest and that leads to just eat what you want as well (for strength of course).  I've not been much for making comfort foods as it has risen in popularity over the past few years (and not the 'healthy' versions either).  It's a heart attack in the making.  And recipes that cut the fat, carbs and calories leaves us with a shallow version of the meals we so enjoyed growing up.  So...let me give you permission to make a wonderful dish when you are feeling like you just want mama.  

Remember Creamed Chipped Beef?  My mother wasn't the best of cooks but she knew how to spread a meal out over the 7 of us.  I knew the basics of this dish but I wanted to get the measurements right for you so you can find the recipe here.  And this is my own photo.  I add peas (frozen) as my mom did...not sure why she did but I like it.  I also add more salt and pepper as a white sauce really needs a lot of flavor or it tastes like glue.  We like it served over toast.  Enjoy!   



In my last post I agonized over how to add something to my living room update which wasn't beige, beige, and more beige.  Call it fear of color.  I don't know how I had this revelation, but one night I envisioned something floral for my curtains.  My living room has tons of large windows, and that's really nice, but we need privacy.  And I simply can't have a bold or loud cold or pattern.  Not me.  I came across these panels at Overstock and I knew they were everything I wanted.  Subtle colors, a subtle pattern, a subtle YAHOO from me when I found them.  They arrived yesterday and I hope to get them pressed and up this weekend.  All I have left to do is find an area rug.  Oh man, my blood pressure just shot up.  



I wanted to give a little Happy Birthday shout out to my sweet Abigail Jane, our caboose, who turns twenty-six  tomorrow.  Here she is with her boyfriend of 8 years, Tom.  They are jetting off to sunny Florida tomorrow for spring break (they are both teachers).  I bought her luggage of her own as a gift so she can stop borrowing mine.  Aren't they the cutest?



Their sweet rescue pup, Squall, is doing well.  He makes an appearance on my Instagram once in awhile.  Aren't those eyes mesmerizing?   What I find so dear about him is that after being confined in a room with several other dogs for the first 8 months of his life, and in a crate most of the time, he's just happy as a clam when Abby and Tom come home (they have a dog walker twice a day when they are at work).  But he's conditioned to retreat to his cage on his own when he doesn't want to play or wants to sleep.  It's a sort of haven for him.  He's blessed to have them, and they are blessed to have him in their lives.  



This is my latest read, which I actually haven't started, but it has great reviews.  I'm really into suspenseful novels lately.  I'll let you know how this goes and if you've read it, let's hear your thoughts.  Find it here.

And speaking of suspenseful...I finished watching Big Little Lies, a series on HBO.  I wrote in a post a short while ago that I didn't like it after watching 2 episodes and trying to get into the book.  Well, I spoke too soon.  My dear friend Ellen, at Scribbler Unfocused, mentioned in a comment that she was enjoying the weekly show.  I think she has great taste in movies, books, decorating, cooking...you name it, so I caught up with the series.  Well, knock me over with a feather.  It ended Sunday night and I was floored.  Incredible.  I cried and then watched the episode again.  I won't even try to give a review...that's not my forte.  And with my tail between my legs, I hope I didn't dissuade anyone from watching it.  Opinions are okay, recommendations are a bit different.  ;-D



Finally, after all my moaning and groaning, I want to end with something nice.  A new pair of shoes for a new season (it's like that here in the Midwest).  I was with Abby at Marshall's and I asked her what sort of shoe I could transition into after all of the boot~wearing over the winter.  She glanced around and pointed at these.  Need I say more?  A soft teal suede, perfect with leggings or skinny jeans, even capri's as it gets near summer.  Abby never steers me wrong with shoes because we share the same size and can steal from each other.  We also exchange purses.  Now, if I were a size 2 dress...

Happy Weekend to everyone!

Jane x

Thursday, March 23, 2017

FINDING MY STYLE



Happy spring, everyone!  I've been adding bits and pieces of things to my home that are light and fresh as we wait for the day when we can truly say winter and it's unpredictable weather is behind us  Last week we had a terrible snowstorm that left us with 10 inches of the white stuff, and it surprisingly melted within 2 days.  We've also had thunderstorms and lightning and just about every weather element you can think of.  

Thanks so much for all of your well wishes for whatever disease (virus) I have.  ;)  My infectious disease doctor thinks that based on some of my blood work, I have something very similar but different from mono, and wants to pinpoint it as there may be some medications that can help.  I donated more of my precious blood last week and I'm waiting to hear what will happen next.  Last week was terrible as far as my lack of energy and the amount of time I spent sleeping.  From Monday to Wednesday night I slept almost around the clock but for a few 3 hour periods when I moped around and wondered when I'd ever get my life back.  But I do tell myself all the time, in the realm of all the illnesses and diseases out there, I'm fortunate.  I have days when I really perk up and feel energy and that's when I get caught up on laundry, cleaning and cooking something somewhat normal for The Husband.  I even managed to put in some time to get 2 newspaper columns finished up.  I'm also trying to make the rounds to visit all of you.  I want to mention that I've had a glitch in sending email replies to comments.  It's definitely on my end, something pops up that tells me the email is unsuccessful and I simply can't figure it out.  So please know I'm reading your comments, listening to your experiences, advice and get well wishes, and I really do appreciate it.  




My new and improved reupholstered sofa was delivered back to me on Monday.  I'm really happy with it.  I shared a picture of the sample fabric in THIS post if you want to see it close up.  It's sort of a window pane pattern, cream on taupe.  It looks nubby but it's actually soft.  

I mentioned that I've been looking for a new coffee table as the glass one I have now is just not safe with the little ones visiting.  I was going to look for an ottoman like the one I have at the lake from Pier 1 (you can see it in that same post I linked to earlier).  That was a real bargain and it's very well made if you are considering a small ottoman.  But then that little Jane voice inside said, "Sounds like too much fabric in the room, Jane."  And then that little voice was saying, "A lot of beige here, too, Jane."  So I have food for thought and I may want to have this little Jane exorcised out of me as well.  I'm actually ready to make some decisions tomorrow...I'm sleeping on it.  Hahahaha...


Another view, it looks like it has a sheen to it but it doesn't.  It's actually very cottage~like.  I'd like to go to Hobby Lobby, someone told me that they carry pillow covers.  That sounds great as I have a ton of outdated and ugly pillows and to be able to slip on a new cover is like, well...reupholstering a sofa. 

Decisions...



Our little Madelyn was Christened this past Sunday.  She looks like a little bride here, doesn't she?  She should because her dress was made out of Emily's wedding gown.  There was one other baby being baptized at the same time and I couldn't help but notice her gown.  As I clawed my way to the front of the group to get a photo when they were pouring the water on Madelyn's head,  I noticed a woman who looked grandmotherly (like me) and so I had to whisper to her, identify her relationship to this baby (indeed the grandmother), and learned that dress was actually almost 100 years old, and the woman;s father was the first to be christened in it and 5 more babies thereafter.  It was beautiful.  And of course, so was Madelyn. 

The church was having a fundraiser and selling sweets so just before we had to enter the church, I made a beeline towards the tables laden with cookies, cakes, brownies, pies...and then tripped on an uneven sidewalk and made a very graceful fall down on to my knees and then rocked back on my rear end.  I was so appalled all I could do was sit there, my face red with embarrassment.  But I guess if you ever have to fall you may as well do it in front of a Catholic church.  Within seconds I was surrounded by concerned men and women helping me up, one lady offering me her handkerchief for my bleeding knee, a man not a day younger than ninety offering to help me inside to a pew.  It was so, so sweet, but all I kept thinking was how much I wanted a chocolate chip cookie.  Still, very nice people.



The after party was close to home and it was a great time.  A smallish neighborhood restaurant that set up a buffet of baked potato soup, stuffed pork tenderloin, green beans and roasted potatoes.  The cake came from a local bakery.



These gorgeous cookies are made by a lady in the neighborhood who is known by word of mouth.  They are about 1/4 inch thick and the flavor is unbelievable.  The cake and cookies disappeared.   We've known Mike's family forever so it was a huge family get together and I enjoyed seeing all of these people on his side of the family that love Madelyn as much as we do.  

I'm still watching her on Mondays when Emily works downtown.  With this possibly different virus, the key is to wash my hands often, especially after using the washroom.  It's passed on through urine. I cleared that with the doctor because I really love having her for the day.  I do get very tired but I keep her little cradle next to my bed and when she naps I rest and read and doze a little.  She's getting very accustomed to the atmosphere in our home, and when I look at her she always recognizes me with a big smile.  I just love this little darling.

 This has been a good week so far.  I came down with some sort of chest congestion thing with a cough that sounds like a cross between a dog barking and a foghorn.  Thankfully I still have some cough syrup prescribed last week for when I had some sort of bronchitis thing.  I'm just going to keep catching things, that's the deal.  But in my lucid moments I use disinfectant everywhere so its safe for people to come and go, and I guess its best that I really just stay close to home since so much is airborne.  We have several family members down with some sort of flu going around.  Today I dragged myself out of bed at the crack of 11:00 and the thought of going to the grocery store loomed in front of me.  All I wanted was a hot shower and clean P.J's, followed by a little nap.  We were literally down to nothing though, including Milo and Layla's little snacks.  While I was making coffee and contemplating Plan A, I was reminded of that little nursery rhyme, "Mother Hubbard went to her cupboard..."  So it was more like a hot shower and then out into the 30 degree cold and wind and boy, it's been a long time I've done a big shopping with feeling so down, so my cart was overflowing.  Before I left home I had grabbed a page from one of my notepads with several new recipes to try and the ingredients I needed and I picked those up as well.  It's such a nice feeling to be stocked up and ready to cook and eat healthy again.  We've been having a lot of frozen pizza, Chinese, and occasionally, Corn Flakes for dinner.  But as fate would have it, I was so tired once I got home, well...frozen pizza it was.

See you soon!

Jane x

Thursday, March 16, 2017

UPON US ALL...


Looks relaxing doesn't it?  This was last weekend at the lake, just relaxing with my coffee, looking out at the sunlight glinting off the lake.  As the sun moves over our house to the West, and you are on the actual lake as opposed to the bay, there is a magical time in the late afternoon when the whole lake seems to light up with diamonds.  Hence, the name Diamond Lake.  There is actually a book written about the lake, Diamond Sparkles, and you can find it on Amazon if you'd like.  


I pretty much finished up this corner of the Great room.  You may know we reupholstered the furniture, which was in super shape.  The glider rockers may be 80's 'country-ish', but if you ever had the pleasure of sitting in one of these babies...heaven!   We have to oil them pretty regularly, its second nature to rock and look at the water.  This is my favorite reading spot in the summer (in the winter I'm in front of the fireplace).  The details...the reproduction railway lantern from Target from their line of Farmhouse decor, Beekman 1802.  I also bought 2 additional, although different lamps  from this line for our bedroom.  At about $30, they are perfect for my budget and decor.  You can only find these online, by the way.

The last thing was looking everywhere for an area rug, getting discouraged at the lack of round ones, and so undecided if I wanted a natural or shag, beige or gray, or just use the one I had before.  And then while I was looking at the lamps online at Target, lo and behold I found this, The Eyelash Rug! If you look at the fibers up close they look like little eyelashes, or in my case, the faux kind that I've been known to use Elmer's Glue to reapply for social functions.  Since the furniture is angled, a 5x7 rectangle worked fine.  I was happy, The Husband was happy, and of course the dogs.  Funny, The Husband was very much wanting to have a say in everything I chose in putting the rooms back together but I don't think he really had much patience and he now lets me have my way.  :)

All we have left now is to hang the curtains for these humongous windows.  We have them but whenever I look in that direction, The Husband busies himself with something 'important'.  It's really only the winter nights that creep me out sitting here.  One night I saw the moonlight reflecting off a huge opossum ambling along the shore.  Another, a few pairs of eyes glowing at me, I'm sure raccoons.  


I'm off and running with buying flowers at the grocery store again.  It is just so dreary out and I don't really have many plants.  I did buy some shamrocks to put in  pot last Sunday.  The Southside Irish Parade always takes place the Sunday before St. Paddy's Day just a few blocks away.  It's actually the largest St. Patrick's Day parade outside of Ireland, beating out the one in downtown Chicago.  We always make our corned beef and cabbage the day of the parade.  On the 17th we'll probably have lasagna or Wiener Schnitzel.  ;-D

I really wanted to share this picture so you can see my glass coffee table which sadly, I have to say goodbye to.  I've only had it about 3 or 4 years but if you looks closely at the corners, they are lethally sharp.  When Elsie started walking we covered the whole table with a heavy quilt.  I understand you can find some sort of thingies to attach to corners of furniture at stores which cater to little ones.  We still aren't reassured.  What happens when the kids decide to jump on the couch or have a pillow fight?  And so, the old domino effect started.  I wanted a fabric ottoman to replace the table which could double as seating, but what sort of fabric?  I'd been wanting to reupholster our 15 year old floral sofa so I really needed to work on that fabric first.  Sounds like I do a lot of recovering furniture...what can I say?  You can't beat a quality piece.



I found a family owned business here in Chicago a few blocks away.  And this is the fabric I chose for the couch.  It's hard to tell the color but the owner, Manuel, kept insisting it was gray.  Perhaps since I had said I wanted gray.  And it should be done any day now.  In the picture with the coffee table you can see the club chair, a sort of light beige.  So...now I'm flipping out over an area rug.  This whole decorating/redecorating/designing stuff is not for me.  If I were an artist I'd definitely be a starving artist.  Nothing would get done.  I'd pick up a paint brush, put it down, and then sleep on it a few more weeks.  

I'll keep you posted.  


Madelyn turned 4 months old on the 10th.  It is amazing how fast she is growing.  And while we thought she looked like Emily so much in the first 4 weeks, she has totally morphed into her daddy, Mike.  She is being christened this Sunday.  Her gown was made out of a part of Emily's wedding dress.  I can't wait to share pictures.  

********

I've been really down for the count health~wise, and I had so many of you wish me well that I thought I needed an explanation.  

For almost a year I have been taking a powerful medication to suppress the immune system.  Primarily used to help rejection of organs in patients who received donated organs, it was found to help in a lot of other diseases, in my case, severe and advanced eczema that hadn't responded to any other treatment over the past 25 years.  You can read more about all of this in my post here.  The main reason I'm telling you about this medication is that it suppresses the immune system in an effort to keep it from attacking good cells, and it leaves you wide open to infections.  

In January, what was thought to be a suspicious lump in my left breast, was diagnosed as an enlarged lymph node among many others, after a mammogram, ultrasound and needle biopsy (no walk in the park).  And then finally, given my fatigue and the nodes indicating signs of infection, I was tested for Mono.  Bingo.


I hope I haven't gone on too long.  I think when we share experiences we can feel connected, and in some cases, give others the courage to seek out answers and not give up.  I know that I was trying to put on a happy face a lot, not only on my blog, but in my everyday life with family and friends. 

 I was so incredibly tired, I simply could not go on telling myself it was because I wasn't twenty anymore or that it was the doldrums of winter.  The truth was I had to set my alarm for noon.  Yes, 12:00 p.m. or I would sleep all afternoon.  12 hours a night was not sufficient.  I would jump out of bed at 9:00 a.m., get dressed, straighten up the house in flash (and a terrible job at that), and meticulously make my bed.  Then I would crawl  back on it under  a throw with a book next to me, all in an attempt to look like I had drifted off while reading in case someone popped in.  I slept for hours on end.  I stopped answering my phone, I didn't have the energy to speak.  I did my grocery shopping at a little 'Mom and Pop' store nearby where I could get in and out in 15 minutes (and you know that grocery shopping is like Disney World for me).  I would pick up sandwiches, chicken dinners or any sort of entree the store made up fresh.  

I don't think The Husband really suspected my lack of activity but this was at the time that we didn't have a diagnosis.  Before I was diagnosed I was just filled with shame.  Watching him go to work everyday, hearing my kids talk about the stresses of their jobs.  I would go to the doctor or the post office or whatever and I would stare at the workers and ask myself, "How does this person get up at 5-6 a.m., shower, dress, eat breakfast, commute and start to think at that early hour?"  It all seemed unreal, surreal.  I'm sure I was/am bordering on clinical depression.

Well, I'm seeing an infectious disease doctor now.  He's not so sure it's mono, which he explains is an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.  It could be any type of infection in any part of my body.  And it can be reactivating itself over and over.  I donated a ton of blood last week and I hope they have more answers.  He believes some of my symptoms can be treated.  I'm very grateful for all of the wonderful, emphatic doctors I've had but I am so tired of needles!

I'll keep you all posted.  Feel free to share any of your experiences, we can all certainly learn something from each other.  Moreover, let me know what you think of the furniture!  Please...I didn't write about this for so long because I didn't want a lot of attention or drama.  Now that you know the whole story I'll give you updates but other than that, I want to focus on fun things...if I can stay awake that long!

Jane x

Sunday, February 26, 2017

THE BALANCING ACT IN WORK & PLAY


After temperatures in the mid twenties yesterday we are warming up.  It's very windy but sunny, and in the forties.  Love it.  I may get some extra exercise and rake up some of the sticks and dead leaves this afternoon.  Or not.  I'm really not good at prioritizing.  I look around now and I see breakfast dishes in the sink, a basket of laundry ready to go downstairs and a bathroom that needs a good scouring.  Yet I'd just love to curl up in a comfy chair, go through the stack of magazines that are piling up or finish one of the 3 books I've started. 

I stopped at Trader Joe last week when I was out in the burbs.  The flowers are definitely an attraction to reel people in. I bought these tulips as well as some yellow carnations.  I also bought some of their delicious salads and spreads such as the Taboule, tapenade, and babeleh.  These are great alone, spread on crackers or added to a green or pasta salad.  

I've been making a lot more salads lately.  I Pin a great many if you want to have a look at my Pinterest board.  The days of chopping up lettuce, adding some cucumber and tomato, and dousing the whole bowl with Italian dressing are over.  The more interesting, the better.  And they're not just for summer any more.  My doctor would like to see me eat less animal protein and since I keep my carbs way down, I can't have much pasta, rice, grains or beans.  The truth is, if I ever had a cheat day I wouldn't eat cookies or ice cream, chips or even bread, as Oprah craves.  I'd have a big 'ol bowl of rice and beans.   The other day Emily and I were heading out for some retail therapy and I offered to bring us a salad for lunch before.  It was simply a huge bowl of Romaine lettuce, finely chopped red pepper, onion, cucumbers, some shredded cheese,  a small handful of chickpeas and some black beans.  I made a light dressing of balsamic vinegar, honey and olive oil.  As we ate (and she loved it), I was thinking of other beans that would have been nice, maybe some chopped olives or a scoop of quinoa.  The great thing was we had two servings from this huge bowl and shopped for almost 4 hours.  Usually we are tired and hungry afterward but not this time.  It was healthy and full of protein.






If you are interested in some meatless recipes, I highly recommend the book River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  He's a British writer and broadcaster and has written several cookbooks including River Cottage Meat and River Cottage Fish.   I've had the book open on my counter for the past two weeks.  I peruse the recipes, jot down the fresh items I need for a few and add them to my grocery list.  Very simple.  I've also taken to food shopping once or twice a week so the veggies are fresh.   Not everyone has the time but it sure beats canned or frozen.  I love the photography in this book, too.  The late great Charlie Trotter wrote in my copy of his book when I had the good fortune to meet him, "Food is love."  I also think food is art. :)

Onward...



This is the first weekend in awhile that we haven't been to the lake.  We've done so much work up there and it was balanced out with a lot of reading and relaxing.  Friday I just wanted to stay home, not have the two hour drive there and back and maybe see the kids.  We did get together at a restaurant about 3 blocks away.  It was fun; we saw some friends and neighbors as well.  Life is slow and somewhat quiet at the lake (with the exception of summer with all of the water toys buzzing around the water and tons of people walking, biking, running, rollerskating...).  The Husband had missed his Sunday morning breakfasts with Elsie.  These two have really bonded.  She just adores him and of course, he loves that attention! I've also had the time to get caught up on some things around the house.  Can you believe I'm still finding Christmas decorations?  In a hallway I happened to notice my sign that says, "Happy Spring".  I guess it can just stay there now.  

The sunsets have been so pretty without the leaves of the trees to obscure the sky.   This is actually facing southeast but I love the reflection on the bay.  Last weekend the weather was in the 60's and I sat outside with the dogs while The Husband split wood for kindling.  A neighbor was burning leaves; it felt like autumn.  I'm glad it's not.  I'm excited to get back to my gardens and sit on a nice clean beach.  



I've been hesitant in giving you a tour of the lakehouse without the decor completely finished.  Another shot of the furniture we had reupholstered.  It's hard to tell but the settee has little diamonds of blue that pick up colors from the sofa and loveseat.  I had a round jute area rug here before but the sun seems to have yellowed it.  I would think if anything it would fade but it didn't.  I have been looking online at every style and shade of area rugs I can and I get so discouraged.  I'm so picky.  And there is not one speck of artwork on the walls yet.  I have a ton to sell at the yard sale in June that I simply have no desire to hang again.  There was a time that I hung pieces just to fill the space.  Now I'm thinking quite a bit before I put a hole in the wall.  The walls are expansive so I need large pieces or groupings.  I get really insecure doing that.  You can rearrange furniture, add, edit or move around small pieces and table toppings,  but rugs, window treatments, artwork or anything that means making a hole in the wall...well that's major



Not much to do in this area...the coffee table is a mess of books and magazines.  The left side of the sofa is where I park in the morning with my coffee or at night with a fire going, maybe sipping wine and reading with that cozy quilt around me.  I mentioned that the carpenters covered over the floor outlet where we used to plug in a lamp on this small table.  I took the advice of the ladies on Instagram to use a lantern with a candle on this table.  I found a set of three at a shop in town, this one being the largest.  Looking at it from this view makes me think I should go down a size.  Gee...looking at these pics make me feel a little homesick for the lake and wish we were there!



Back at the ranch, I continue to declutter.  This counter is always an eyesore (and this is the after!).  It's across the room from the stove and sink so I really don't use it a ton.  Some would put the mixer and food processor away as well as the flour and sugar but I want it at the ready.  I think the reason I don't use my slow cooker much is because its buried in a cabinet and it's heavy!   See the empty cookie jar?  That's why I have the mixer out.  Time to get moving.  

 How do we keep a nice balance between having a clean, organized home/closet/car...fill in the blanks if you wish, and time for relaxing and living in the moment?  It's hard for me to kick back if I have stuff to get done.  And there's always stuff.  So, my question is...do you have a designated day for cleaning house or do you do it as needed, a little here and a little there?  There was a time when I had to have everything perfect, as if my mother was going to walk in unannounced with a white glove.  In fact I prided myself on being the Queen of Clean.  And then I realized how tired I was.  And I noticed my energy level for doing much else after I broke my bum picking up, organizing and disinfecting was nil.  Patterns change and sometimes I wonder if I'm being neglectful or just breaking free of  unrealistic standards I set up.  Just my thoughts on a Sunday afternoon, still looking at breakfast dishes while I ponder what to make for dinner.

  

I did a pretty good job simplifying the bedroom.  I recently bought this comforter from West Elm for the bed in the master bedroom at the lake.  Then I found another at Target that suited our room much better.  Loving this one so much I kept it for the bedroom here in the city.  The woven color is gray but I saw that you could get the comforter with red or blue accents.  The throw at the end is from Pottery Barn and a good five years old.  Abby even had it at her apartment for a while.  On really cold nights I layer it over the comforter which is super soft but not so thick.  Hello from Layla!  She turned 10 last week.  Like me, she needs to walk off a few pounds.  ;-D

So here's a little round up without all the unnecessary words:

From Blondie's Medical Journal:  An infection going on three months in my head and chest due to zero immunity.  Hoping the new meds are approved in March.  I stopped bothering to take OTC meds, so I just sleep as much as possible.  Probably the reason I'm agonizing over housework.

From Blondie's Library:  Just finished Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (quite good), and starting Since She Went Away, a thriller that I found at Target.  "...a chilling novel of guilt, regret, and a past that refuses to die..."  I have the feeling this will be a page turner.  

From Blondie's Guide to The Laziest Form of Entertainment:  Never disappointed by Blindspot, Timeless and This Is Us, the latter making me very down so I may stop watching.  Hmmmm...

From Blondie's Guide to Even More Lazy Forms of Entertainment:  Tried to start the new HBO series based on the book by Liann Moriarity,  Big Little Lies.  Got further in the book, as in two chapters.  Interesting characters but boring.  A shame because these are really good actors.  A better choice for a series would have been her book, The Husband's Secret.  Loved that.  Started an excellent series on HBO called Imposters.  OMGoodness; mystery, drama, action, humor, sexiness and great acting.  Great storyline, too.  Just a few episodes in, you can catch up if you have On Demand.  I'm anxious for Tuesday nights!

From Blondies Love Of Music Meant For the Younger Crowd:  I actually love driving, the farther the better, just to crank up that car radio.  So loving Mercy by Shawn Mendes.  The live performance from SNL is insane.  I'm also belting out the words along with Rihanna to Love on the Brain, and dreaming  with the Chainsmokers doing Paris.  Finally, loving the new(ish) singles out by The Weeknd, Starboy, and Bruno Mars, 24K Magic.

Okay, I may have lost most of you on this last one.  

I'll be back soon.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend and the start of a brand new week!

Jane x