Tuesday, September 12, 2017

FULL DAYS



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

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

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




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

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



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



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




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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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





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





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

********

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

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

Jane x

Monday, August 28, 2017

AS SUMMER WINDS UP...


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


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



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



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


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


Jane's Hawaiian Salad

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

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

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

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




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


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



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

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

So other things going on in Blondieville:

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

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

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

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

Do you have holiday plans?

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

I'll be back soon!

Jane 



Friday, August 4, 2017

SLOW LIFE


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

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


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




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



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




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



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

Fresh Mango Guacamole

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



See you all soon!

Jane xxx









Monday, July 24, 2017

SUMMER IN THE CITY (AND COUNTRY)


Here's my guy Milo, playing sentry.  He has been having so much fun at the lake just roaming around the property and every once in awhile, meeting a new furry friend.  The home next door is being rented to vacationers and he loves to wander over and visit.  The  problem is he usually leaves a little 'gift' and so I have to go over to clean up, introduce ourselves and apologize.  Our little Welcome Wagon.  Honestly though, we've met some very nice people.  

   

I went up to the lake a few days before the 4th of July and just came home this past Monday.  I think I would have stayed longer except I had a dental appointment, as well as my six month physical that I have to do for my asthma.  And of course, I get to have Miss Mad once a week when Emily works downtown.  The weather is so nice now, albeit hot and humid most of the time, but we get out for a long walk in the stroller or just some time in the backyard.  

During my days alone at the lake I try to get out every day.  I think of the movie Castaway, with Tom Hanks.  His plane crashes and he ends up on an uninhabited island for five years.  One of the most moving parts of the film is his relationship with a volley ball which has washed up on shore.  He paints a face on it and it became his friend and companion, Wilson.  So...I was alone in the cottage one day just doing my own thing, chatting with the dogs ("Don't tell me you have to go out again."  "No.  You just had a treat!").  And then it sort of hit me.  If I didn't have the dogs, I wouldn't utter a word for days on end.  And if Tom Hanks hadn't had Wilson, there would have been a good forty minutes of silence, and that wouldn't have made for a very good movie.  

I did get together with some friends one evening at my place, and now that lake people know I'm pretty much there all the time, I have friends stopping by.  It's all very slow, relaxing and peaceful.  



I've been coming across a few 'new to me' antique shops.  I went into a town one day to check out a shop I had been to years ago.  it had a new owner and was even better than before.  Everything was displayed very nicely and I lingered for a long time.  A great collection of ironstone, a lot of mismatched silver and silver-plate, interesting books and a whole section of garden paraphernalia.  I found the galvanized watering can there.  It's not a large place so the owner is particular about what she sells.  


I found these Beatrix Potter books, they are very small and have a copyright of 1946.  My heart melted when I saw them.  I have a lot of the Bunnykins china by Royal Doulton, and I can add these to the collection for the kids to fight over later.  I'm looking for the perfect brown velvet ribbon to tie these together with.  I have a vision of them looking perfect this way.

  

The projects never end.  We have this balcony off our bedroom but we rarely use it.  It has a view of the 'big lake', as opposed to the bay that you often see in my posts.  Do you know that the builder of our home made sure that you could see water out of every window in the house?  And it's true.  Someday I'll find a map that shows you exactly how we are situated.  

I needed something comfy-my goal was to have a place to recline, read the paper, sip coffee and enjoy the lake breeze.  I found these bamboo chairs with canvas on Hayneedle.  I believe they were in the area of $70.  A few days after they arrived (and they are top notch), I saw something very similar in a Ballard Design catalog for $180.   These are fine for me.  I love that they fold up for easy storage and that the canvas can be scrubbed, power washed...what ever you need.  In the background is a mosquito plant.  It smells somewhat like citronella and a friend of mine swears by them for deterring the varmints.  Several people asked about the pillow.  This was made by Maria Elena at Our Home Away From Home.  She has the most beautiful home in Texas and she is a sewing wizard!  I'm sure the balcony will continue to evolve...I'll keep you posted.



We had the pleasure of watching our granddog for awhile when these two (daughter Abby and Tom) attended Tom's brother's wedding.  Squall was great, he loves the water.  Thankfully, Layla is getting a bit more comfortable around him.  He's about seventy pounds to her ten.  

I had to laugh when Abby talked about Tom's speech (as Best Man) at the wedding.  He began with recounting some of the wonderful trips and vacations his brother and fiancee had gone on.  When his brother said they were going to have a 'Destination Wedding', everyone thought: warm, tropical, exotic.  "So here we are," Tom said in his address to the guests at the reception.  "Destination Wedding...Indiana!"



I also made sure I was home for my sister's 60th birthday party.  Held in the town where I grew up and no longer recognize, it was such a fun get together.  My sisters and I don't see each other enough.  It was fantastic to catch up.  I wish the pics of the family were sharable, but if you've ever tried to get six people together who are giggling, flipping their hair, joking with one another...well it's hard to find one good shot.  Just take it from me, it was a fun night. 

I did get a shot of me and my brother, John, who lives in southern Indiana.  We see each other about once a year although we need to make a point of doing it more.  You might remember his daughter's wedding down in Louisville three years ago.  He retired at sixty-five from teaching high school social studies.  It was a short retirement; he went back in the capacity of administration part time and is very happy.  Can you believe he'll be seventy in December?  It was so great seeing him as well as my sisters, nieces and nephews.  

  

I perused some of my appetizer recipes on Pinterest (click to get to my boards) for an article I was writing for the Indiana/Michigan newspaper.  I've been a Pinning fool lately...if only we cooked as much as we Pinned!  I'm focusing on appetizers.  Summer is such a great time for entertaining and going to parties.  And you can't go empty handed.  I had a few that did not require any cooking or reheating.  This one stood out.  A toasted baguette slathered with a ricotta cheese mixture, then topped with prosciutto and basil.  What a great way to use this creamy, subtlety flavored  cheese.  I can't wait to try it.

Heading back to the lake Wednesday where I will ensconce myself until August 12.  Remember me mentioning The Husband gave me a birthday present back in February for tickets to see Idina Menzel?  All of a sudden the date is here.  I have to book a hotel room and dinner reservations.  I want to shop til I drop!

Finally, thanks for all the good wishes on my promotion.  I am giddy with excitement and looking forward to some quiet time to start building up columns in a folder.  

Have a wonderful week and I will be back soon!

Jane x



Tuesday, July 11, 2017

MID SUMMER MADNESS: GOOD EATS, READS AND GENERAL DRIVEL


Hi!  Just me.   Still at the lake.  I'm just going to stop giving my location like a GPS...I've been here since the end of May but for maybe 2 weeks.  I'm loving it.  We are having rain almost all this coming week so I may get more writing and blogging going rather than wandering around outside like a weirdo.  It's just so much more quiet and secluded here than my home in the city.  It's a slow sort of life but I always keep busy or find things to do.  I have been a little reclusive, most days my only conversations are with the dogs, and even they are tired of me.  I invited some lake girlfriends over for hors d'oeuvres and cocktails tomorrow so maybe I'll take my hair out of its permanent ponytail and throw on something other than a T shirt for that.  :)

Our 4th of July was fun.  We had family and friends come up as early as the Friday before.  The lake has a fun party at the sandbar the Saturday before where you can anchor and play in the waist high water while singing and dancing along with a live band.  The fireworks show is that night and we go out on the boat to watch from the water...it's a spectacular show in the sky and on the water.  So it was a few good long days of playing on the beach, grilling food, and eating tons of fruit, chips and dips, and taking long boat rides.  We walked the baby and dogs and stayed up late in front of the bonfire.  It was really great.  When the last of the lake warriors left on Wednesday, I had the slow but steady job of cleaning up sand everywhere in the house, even in the sheets.  Egad.  It was quiet and peaceful once again so I rolled with it.  

  

Madelyn really is a waterbug.  Emily bought a little baby pool that she filled up with a little of the warm lake water and that little girl could sit in it all day.  We kept it down on the beach where we spend most of our time.  The little fashionista had a different red, white and blue dress for each of the five days.  I don't think Emily ever got out of the doll dressing days.  And as far as Madelyn sitting in a pool rather than the water, we spotted a muskrat cruising by and that was it for Emily.  They are sort of nasty looking.



I share so many pics from our little cove, I'll start to post more from right on the lake.  This is a happy group:  Abby's boyfriend Tom, and nieces Grace and Tricia.  Fun in the sun!



One of the best parts of being here almost full time is getting a lot of time to fix up spaces we never have time to do on weekends, as well as shopping for new pieces to replace what I've tossed or donated.  We have a foyer and it's never seen much because we never use the front door.  So I started thinking about it and searched for a bench that would fit.  I finally found one at Pier 1.  It is actually part of a dining room table and man, I'd love to have the table, too!  Pier 1 is gaining in popularity with many of us who like Pottery Barn.  I styled it with a chicken wire basket holding birch logs (our tree came down in a bad storm, sob.).  I got the B and window from Hobby Lobby and the pillow from an Etsy shop called With Lavender and Grace.  She has a ton of really cute handmade pillow covers at great prices.  And finally, the rusty windmill and wire rack...Emily noticed a small shop that recently opened in the next town that I apparently missed when driving by.  It is so cool and I spent over an hour talking to the owner.  They paint all sorts of furniture to sell and have decor ranging from shabby to farmhouse to industrial.  Most is made by local artisans and priced really well.  There are also candles and cards and bits and bobs~~~I'm actually fearful of going back!




This looks like a picture from a website but it's just a closeup of the rack on the wall.  I wanted something with hooks but this was even better.  It was fun add a few cute things to it.

I'm also working on the balcony off our bedroom.  The wisteria still needs to be trimmed and trained up to the slatted arbor roof and I've been looking for comfy chairs that are easy to store in the winter, as well as an outdoor rug.  Another area I have neglected.  I finally found what I needed at Amazon and I'll share when it all arrives.  It's the same story with the big front porch.  I lost my furniture cushions which were stored inside when we had the flood.  I'll be darned if I can't find the right sizes for this furniture.  I'll keep looking but I'm afraid the house looks a little haunted from the front.  We had wind damage off the lake to the storm door so it's barely hanging on, and so much is overgrown.  So much to do as always around here.  


I loved this oak tree so much that we had the patio built around it.  I have about four birdhouses in it, a feeder and a hanging plant suspended off a branch (only me).  The Husband says that if I hammer one more nail in the tree I'm going to kill it.  And then I happened to come upon these solar light mason jars.  They mimic mercury glass so when they light up at night they really sparkle.  

I have really turned into a little old bird lady.  My neighbor is helping me identify them.  I have one feeder on this tree (that I'm murdering with nails), and another on the maple on the other side, which I can see from the windows in the corner of the Great room when I'm sitting having my coffee.   I also found a sweet birdbath, so it's just a feathered friend paradise here.  Cardinal, finches, wrens, tit mouses, nut hatches, woodpeckers...and even robins and orioles stop by for the birdbath.  Occasionally I get a little chipmunk but it hasn't been a nuisance.  We have been having a lot of critter sightings; two deer just ambling down the street in morning, a gofer that tunneled into my rock garden, the muskrat I mentioned, a mink, our swans that had 8 'swanlings' this spring, and some of the most gigantic turtles sunning themselves on the beach.  I mean their shells are as large as trash can lids.  Just call me Blondie Doolittle.  :)



I love this time of evening.  Sometimes I can stand on the dock,  look up and the sky looks like a carpet of stars.  



Emily did several photo shoots with Madelyn and her five dresses.  I love this one.  The Husband planted daisies here one year and they bloom just in time for July 4th celebrations and throughout the rest of the summer.  I have vases of them all over the house.  



I've had a few health issue this past stay and it limited me in doing some of the outdoor work.  Nothing major.  A head and chest cold (or maybe a revisit from that nasty virus) had me feeling terrible and then spurred on the asthma so I couldn't get around like I normally do.  I also think I got bit by something as my left ankle and foot swelled up a few days ago and really had me concerned.  The Husband came up for the weekend and I asked for some help in the garden, which had been severely neglected over the two summers we weren't here.  Well, he worked his cute little buns off weeding and edging and he even dug up all the stones that made a path, power washed them, and laid them back down.  Love him.  I went to our little nursery/market in town today and this is my load.  They really lower the prices of perennials around this time and I have a lot of spaces to fill in.  I bought a ton of lavender, honeysuckle, phlox, Coreopsis, and Artemisia.  I can't tell you how sweet my car smelled as I drove home.  And now I have work ahead of me in between the rainstorms. 

So I continue to enjoy each slow day as it flows into the next.  It's amazing how much more calm I feel when I'm not pushing myself to get this done or that finished and above all, worrying about the obligations of taking care of other people.  I wanted to pass on an Instagram feed I came across which led me to the woman's You Tube videos.  Perhaps some of you ladies down in Texas know of her, Dominique Sachse.  She is a newscaster in Houston and she puts out weekly You Tube videos ranging from careers, raising children, fashion, decor, health and make up tutorials.  I'm just really loving watching these videos on my laptop in the evening.  She has such a great 'on camera' presence, and she comes across very knowledgeable, honest and caring.  The video that recently inspired me and had me nodding my head the whole time, is titled You Deserve More,  Reset, Reclaim Your Life.  Her words truly opened my eyes to how far I've come from raising children, to feeling a little lost, and then finally identifying my dreams and goals and making them happen.  I hope you have a look at this video (and I think you'll like many others she's posted), and if you leave your thoughts in the comment section, we can go further into a conversation in my next post.

****Note:  You may not get to the video with this link but do try to 'search' You Tube by typing in her name.

Finally, very briefly, here is a little more drivel before I go:


I got a promotion at the Chicago newspaper!  Yay!  It's weekly and I will go from writing one column a month to three!  I am so, so excited.  Of course it's daunting and I have to really get disciplined but I've been changing my writing time habits.  I get on a roll writing day after day and then saving several articles to submit when needed.  Wish me luck---I'll probably always have that fear of not keeping up but at least I've lost the fear of trying.

I had to break out of the habit of sitting in the evening on my laptop night after night, but I've never really watched television here.  Years ago The Husband and I would rent a movie every so often but otherwise, no.  I've been in a routine though and sometimes I'll dwell on problems and conflicts in my life, so for a diversion I actually cozied up on the couch in the loft with a quilt and the dogs and watched mindless TV  this past Sunday night.  It was fantastic!  A huge, guiltless Real Housewives/Hallmark Movie party!

My eating habits are still a little different.  I can pat myself on the back for being able to piece together a meal or snack with whatever is on hand and I've definitely been eating healthy foods.  It's just that since I'm not obligated to make dinner as I do for The Husband and I, I can sometimes get lazy and have cheese and crackers for dinner or a can of soup for breakfast.  Anyway, in keeping the carbs down I'm still sticking with eggs, low carb toasted bread with avocado, nuts, berries and whipped cream, and a few slices of cheese for a snack.  I have also made stir fry with beef or chicken and veggies, as it's quick and you get everything on one plate.  

Having time outside with the dogs is great exercise.  I take them for walks but when the asthma kicked in last week I had to slow it down.  With Milo really becoming more deaf by the day, when he wanders off the property I have my work cut out for me hunting him down as he can't hear me call.  I have to talk to my vet for some tips.  Abby picked up these little battery operated buttons that light up.  You put them on the dog's collar and you can then see your pup in the dark.  This helps but I really don't let them out much at night unless we are just relaxing on the patio.  Too many nocturnal animals in the woods that I don't want them to tangle with.

Reading.  Still plowing through A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams.  It's hard to get into but since I loved her last novel I keep pushing on.  Also picked up a Mary Kay Andrews paperback at the drugstore which I haven't opened, as well as one by Elin Hilderbrand, The Rumor.  I thought they would be fun and keep up with the summer beach vibe.  All the stores I'm used to, including Barnes And Noble, are several towns away so I'm sort of stuck with what I have here.  I also get very distracted by the birds flitting around or a boat drifting past, and totally lose my concentration, so not much reading gets done anyway.  

I hope all of you are having a great week.  I'll be by for some visits soon!  Enjoy our mid summer madness!

Jane x