I'm wrapping up the 2014 Year In Review today so we can move onward and upward. We had a wonderful New Year's Eve...just The Husband and I, and I actually managed to stay up watching the ball dropping in the Grand Room at Navy Pier, as well as fireworks outside my windows, and then some great music on a few of the television broadcasts.
Now, going backward to July seems a little odd, right? lol! Well, here we are with our 4th of July celebration at the lake. This is our biggest summer party and some of our guests actually stay at a motel in the next town as we can exceed the 16 people we are able to put up in our lakehouse. I have fun jazzing up the patio...I reuse the same patriotic decorations every year. My favorite trick is to color the water in my Mason jars with red and blue food dye (and regular old water for the "white") and stuff them with our daisies which are usually blooming like crazy by July.
I found these paper fans at the Dollar Tree and had them here and there. I hope they have them again this year...they are really cute. I saved some but they took a beating being outdoors for a few days.
Back and forth, city to country...that's our summer. I love it. Usually four days in the city and three at the lake. Things tend to go to the wayside here as I'm doing laundry, shopping, cleaning, running errands when I'm back. You know...real life. I took one day to give my bathroom a fresh little makeover. I thought the vibrant colors were really different for me. Everything came from Target; the shower curtain, rug and hand towel. That's it. A whole new look! Since this pic was taken, the bath has been painted a soft white and I made a few cosmetic changes. I hope to share that soon.
I get a little more laid back with cooking in the summer. This was a little bit of a different dinner in the warm weather, chili with cornbread. We do so much grilling outdoors, it's nice to just be inside once in awhile and use the good old stove. Abby and Tom were here for this dinner on this particular night and I loved using some paper placemats I had found in a little shop in Asheville, N.C. They come in a tablet form and I still have a ton!
My granddog, Tulo, continued to grow in leaps and bounds. You saw him as a puppy in my last post. Here he is at three months. He totally infiltrated our house and took over Milo's dog bed, as well as Layla's favorite little raggedy toy. It's so funny how he bursts into our house...he could care less about me or anyone else, he just wants to see his little fur friends! Now remember, at eight months (as I write), he has quadrupled in size!
We took a week off in August to hang out at the lake. It was on my agenda to start adding flowers to my little boxwood enclosed garden. There was no shaking The Husband off on this one (he loves a good project) but it worked out to my advantage. We lugged the plants home, he dug the holes and I planted the pots of perennials. There are A LOT here, but I'm hoping that as the years go on and things get crowded, I can divide them and slowly fill in the rest of the borders here. It should be really pretty. My late sister, Leslie, loved pink and purple flowers. She was a fantastic gardener. I plant these colors in honor of her, and I threw some yellow in for contrast. I wish she were here to see this, for me to get advice from. On the bright side, she was great inspiration. :)
Not many recipes in this post so I'll just share a salsa recipe I tried to perfect over the summer. I had an abundance of tomatoes, mostly from my neighbor, Susie, at the lake. Find the basics here. It's a winner.
Most of you know that every year we meet up with my blogger friend, Cindy and her husband, Dan. Cindy writes the blog Applestone Cottage and they live in Northwestern Wisconsin. This summer we met in Madison, WI. About 3 hours from Chicago, I was surprised that The Husband and I had never been there before. What a great city! So pretty, clean and plenty to do. Sadly, we only had the weekend but we just enjoyed the heck out of it. I say it every year...you meet someone through blogging and it's like you've met your soul mate. I have that with Cindy.
I'm usually the obnoxious one who chooses where we stay. I was so excited that there was a B&B just outside of Madison that was basically a small farm with a few barnyard animals, an organic garden with veggies with which our breakfast was made, and a large Labradoodle to warm our hearts. Chalk up another great time. Cindy, I'm looking forward to what 2015 holds for us!
With a little nip in the air I was feeling fall around the corner. I did a tiny little bit of rearranging of the mantel to get into the groove of fall arriving...
...and The Husband got his autumn groove on by buying a wood splitter and then roaming around old backroads looking for country folks selling firewood. Every weekend he would repeat this process, coming home with a truckload of wood, and then spending the day cutting it into logs and kindling. I started calling him Paul Bunyon, but honestly, this is what the man likes to do for relaxation. And thankfully, we have enough firewood for the next ten winters.
We had two antique/thrift stores open up in our little lake town. I really have to drive by them with blinders on, I have so much clutter as it is. But one day I spotted these wood folding chairs outside one of the shops and I hit the brakes. Ahhh...I love chairs! Not sure what I'm going to do with them...I get tired of painted furniture, I thought of stripping some of the varnish and stain, and then roughing them up with sandpaper. Then maybe make some sort of thin little shabby seat cushions. Yes? No? I'll also use varnish as they will be on the covered patio all summer.
In September it was revealed that my son, Kevin, and daughter in law, Mary Clare, were having a baby girl. Here I am with MC's mom, Peggy, after finding out we have Ellsie arriving in February. We are going to be playing tug of war with that little baby!
Bring on the mums! I did it a little too early this year after being coerced by Emily to try a place with "rainbow mums". Oh, LOVE! But they petered out too soon and I had to replace them with pansies which do well here until frost. Not bad, pansies are pretty inexpensive. But whoa...these were gorgeous!
I may sometimes appear to be a person who is always happy, energetic and on the go, but no. I'm a middle aged gal that wants to make sure I can get as much out of life as I'm allowed, and while I can. Sometimes I worry that I'm not reaching high enough, not setting or achieving goals. I mean to get into more in~depth conversations on my blog, but then I get consumed with chronicling day to day events. Hopefully the dialogue changes sometimes to give you some inclination of my mindset at the time. :)
Anyway, this was fall, things were winding up at the lake and I was thinking of that word, "GROW", which you may remember from my last post was used as my "word" for 2015. Maybe it's the time in my life...maybe I just want to take advantage of all the great opportunities for adventure and experiences I have at my fingertips. Well, this is not a post to reflect in...you can read my thoughts on this subject here. And I had several bloggers that warmly suggested a few books I might want to read. Several recommended A Year By The Sea, by Joan Anderson. I gobbled it up. My friend, Melanie, had read it several times. I truly hope the coming year is one in which I reach for the stars and climb a few small mountains.
Okay, fall officially came to the Midwest. I loved pulling out the jeans and sweaters, and I found these nifty shoe/boots that I thought were so cool! In the guise of showing off the leaves, I present my blue suede shoes.
We don't have to "close up" the lakehouse, it's year round, a regular old home. But we go so rarely in the winter months. So in the late fall when we spend that last "real" weekend putting everything away; cleaning out the flowerpots and cleaning up the boat (forgotten stiff beach towels and water bottles galore)...it's a little bittersweet.
Good 'ol Milo, normally in a fenced in backyard (albeit quite large) here in the city, loves his freedom to roam at the lake. This was the year of The Girlfriend. Yes, he met a beautiful Golden Retriever two houses down on the bay. He has to navigate around cattails and docks, and jump over and through a creek, but he knows when she's there. Oh, young love. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
A big surprise in or around September was waking up in the morning feeling like I had slept on my hands. Numbness, tingling, pain. The Husband guessed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and after a test, yes, that's exactly what it was. Man, why me? How did it come on so fast and furious? I had two surgeries in the space of four weeks and it really jumbled up my life to put it mildly. It still seems a little surreal. But happily, I'm doing really well. I know it will be awhile before my hands feel normal but I'm not in pain all the time. :)
Between surgeries we slipped away to our condo in Asheville, N.C. How sweet! We had never been there in the fall so it was absolutely spectacular to see the mountains in all their glory.
We relaxed, shopped, ate, took a few day trips and most happily, met up with my good friend and fellow blogger, Mary, from A Breath Of Fresh Air. Here we are with her husband, Bob, at our favorite Asheville restaurant, The Lobster Trap. Mary and Bob are from Raleigh, but had coinciding plans to be in our neck of the woods so it worked out grand. Such fun. Mary, I love you! And Bob...you're not too bad either! :)
I really love to get inspired by food I have in restaurants, and Asheville has the best of the best...restaurants and food! I had a simple sandwich for lunch one day at The Grove Wood Cafe came home and duplicated it. No recipe involved here...just a nice layering of hummus, avocado, sprouts, tomatoes and red pepper on good bread. This is my version here that I couldn't wait to replicate. Find the details here.
We were back home and Thanksgiving arrived quickly. I had fun with a pretty table this year. I found some colorful and inexpensive salad plates at Pier 1, and they gave the table a very vibrant autumn feel. Everything else just seemed to fall into place. We had most of the kids for dinner and the extended family for dessert as per usual. Always fun.
I hadn't planned on it but I tried a new grocery store that has a sensational cheese section. I wrote in my Thanksgiving post that I set up a little area on my kitchen island with a variety of cheeses I had purchased along with crackers, bread and fruit. It was such a hit. Forget any other appetizers! But I did make this baked cheese dip that was out of this world and everyone wanted the recipe. Very simple but there is just something about the combination of cheeses and spices and served piping hot out of the oven. You can find the recipe here.
Moving on to Christmas...I had so many lofty ideas for crafting...I just wanted to do my own thing and not buy into all the razzle dazzle of store items. I did that a bit, too..I can't deny! But I had so much fun recreating some of the ideas I had Pinned and had seen on other blogs. You can look in my December archives if you'd like to see how I was inspired, but in reality, I took my own spin on everything. Isn't that how the creative process works?
These are your everyday Mason jars with a coat of Modge Podge (available at craft stores), then sprinkled with Epsom salts. I decorated the rims very simply with tattered ribbons of drop cloth, grapevine and faux berries. You can use whatever you have on hand. Then just plunk a votive candle down inside. Very pretty.
This jar consisted of a few ideas together in one. I had these smaller Mason jars and I used some rock salt and cranberries in layers and then tucked a tea light in the center. I love how the cranberries glow. What is nice...you can keep the jars and the rest is so inexpensive. I will make these every year, I'm sure. This was a favorite.
I had a lot of inspiration in putting together these stockings for my kids and their partners. Go to my original post to read about it. I was so chuffed when the girls huddled around on Christmas morning to see them, to see their names! I stamped them on rounds of cedar found at Michael's, and The Husband had drilled the holes that I threaded twine though to attach them to the stockings. The stockings were custom made by Southhouse Designs.
We had three days of Christmas celebrations, how blessed we are! I won't spend a lot of time with that as I just posted recently, I had Christmas morning brunch here and I set up a simple buffet with sweets and fruit (I also made an egg casserole which was still in the oven when I took this snap!).
And on New Years Eve, The Husband and I celebrated with a small spread of cheeses, crackers, pears and cold shrimp with a remoulade sauce. Oh, yes...some champagne!
Thank you so much for following along with me on this loooong year in review. It's been quite a bit of work but so worth it. Now...let's move on to the New Year, a year in which I hope to meet more friends through my blogging, and of course, continue to hold all of you wonderful and sweet friends from over the years very close to my heart,
Again, love to all of you!