Friday, June 23, 2017

BEACH GIRL, BEACH DAYS & COWGIRLS



Hey Everyone!  I've not gone missing.  I have been spending time at our cottage and I am in such a good mindset as a result.  Maybe not so much a writing mindset...  I really and truly believe we all need to spend some honest and goodness time with ourselves.  I think I have a new best friend.  And what's more...I absolutely loved all of your comments on my last post. I woke up the morning after I wrote it; coffee in hand, birds chirping and was speechless. Some of you expressed your thoughts on your experiences raising your children, others the empty nest situation, whether it has happened or is looming.  And many of you ladies gave valuable insight into the whole realm of getting older and navigating a way through this new chapter.  I just loved the response.  Now~~~I have a secret.  It was a dark, rainy night...I couldn't wait to go to bed and watch the scary lightning and curtains whipping around the balcony doors.  So I finished up my column for the Chicago newspaper and hit publish.  Oops, that should have been Save.  Oh, yeah.  I use the same template for all of my writings.  It was there in the morning on my blog and since I had already started to receive comments, what's a girl to do?

  Note to self:  Maybe you ought to write more about what you think and feel as opposed to the everyday drivel of your life.  ;-)



I embrace each day at the lake.  The weather has been a little unpredictable but I just adjust my plans accordingly.  I've had a lot of time finishing up the guest bedrooms as far as wall art and little pieces that make it homey.  I've also been Swiffering my brains out.  The dark wood floor shows everything and it drives me nuts.  And I piddle and fuss.  Then I read or write.  Then I Swiffer again.  And so it goes.  

The weekend of Father's Day was a blast...my two youngest girls and their guys came, along with The Husband, of course, and wee little Madelyn had her first somewhat 'conscious' visit at the lake.  Her first time was at our sledding weekend in January, and as she was an infant, I'm pretty confident she will have no memories whatsoever.  



Look at this bathing suit!  She is a little Esther Williams.  And please note the matching headband.  She is a model baby, as in Emily dresses her in a new outfit everyday, sometimes two in one day, just like a supermodel with shorter legs.  Anyway, Mad loves water.  We filled a little baby pool with lake water, avoiding minnows and snapping turtles as best we could.  And since Emily had seen a muskrat the night before, she declared to anyone within earshot that the lake should be off limits for a minimum of 10 days. 



Of course you gotta love this little charmer, carrots all over her face and all.  But what I really want you to note is the high chair.  This was Abigail's when we moved to the lake 26 years ago.  She was 6 months old.  I'm going to try to dig out a picture and put them side to side.  And this little antiquey isn't just 26 years old, we found it at a church sale so who knows.  It's definitely a Jenny Lind, and The Husband painted it blue (I'm scratching my head over that), and it has been there for every visiting baby since.  It was hiding in the garage since the flood and Em pulled it out, scrubbed it down and here we are.  Sob, sob.  Of course Abby showed little, if any emotion.  "I simply can't remember sitting in it, Mom.  What do you want me to say?"



Madelyn had her first boat ride on Papa's lap.  They are loving it!  We have so many pics of babies; family and friends, who took this same ride with The Husband.  When they get older, he actually lets them hold the steering wheel.  I think I'm going to frame this.  



I adore this picture.  Her dress has little white sailboats on it.  There was another with Emily holding Madelyn and the big lake is in the background.  Most of the shots you see are taken on our bay...the lake is enormous.




All sun and fun and no land?  You might remember I did our master bedroom in a sort of country/rustic way.  A nice break from the nautical throughout most of the house.  

I was really happy to have this website recommended to me.  And when I find a great website, I like to pass it on. At King Ranch I fell in love with these cowgirl boots...have a look.


These are mine  You can't have them.


I had a lump in my throat watching the opening video.  I think most of you know that I grew up in the prairie land of Illinois.  No...not like "Little House on the Prairie" as I might make it sound, but huge corn and wheat fields, a watering hole of a lake, and skies that dropped off into the horizon.  There were an abundance of well traveled back roads that took you to out of the way places.  You could park on dirt roads and watch the sun set, or walk precariously on a fallen tree over a steam.  We'd sit on the hood of the car, illegally drinking beer and listening to Bob Segar's Night Moves.  I have wonderful, heart filled memories of those days.  So much came back to me looking at this video, and I dug out my old cowboy boots.  As you can see, I've had them forever.  You have to break those babies in and once you do, never give them up.  I have worn them everywhere and with anything, from jeans to skirts to shorts (I'm seriously thinking going to Coachella next year.  Well, only if Vanessa Hudgens goes with me).  

I really have a thing for this company and I hope that not only you Western gals check it out...let's dance in sundresses in the South and shorts in the Midwest!  

So now I leave you with a few thoughts.  I've been enjoying my time, freedom and independence at the lake for over four weeks now.  Some have asked (very politely) how it works in my marriage.  Well, you know, I didn't know until I tried it.  Truth is, we both enjoy a little time apart.  We're not Bert and Ernie.  We could do what we wanted to do without any nagging or chastising about those bad habit things that drive us crazy no matter how long we've been married.  He loves to leave dirty dishes and candy wrappers all around his favorite chair and table in the living room.  He leaves a trail of clothes behind him wherever he goes, and bath towels can be thrown on the floor until there is a mountain.  Oh, and he can go to bed at 8:00 p.m. after Rachel Maddow.  

Me?  Well, I can sleep til 10 or 11:00 a.m. without anyone making me feel like a sloth.  And then again, I can stay up late on my laptop without anyone crabbing for me to come to bed.  I don't have to tell anyone to clean up their dishes or candy wrappers.  My clothes are always neatly put away and I rarely trip over anything on the floor.  I can be really gross and spit my toothpaste in the sink and not rinse it out.  At least for about 10 minutes.   I watch Rachel Maddow at 8:00 before I go into a frenzy of writing each evening.

I worry most that he eats right.  Since I've never really known him to grocery shop other than picking up jumbo sized toilet paper and donuts, I try not to get too sympathetic.  He won't starve. And we have every sort of restaurant and fast food place within walking distance.  

Me?  I sound like a primitive caveman.  I survive on eggs, avocados, cheese and nuts.  Seriously.  I'm not liking cooking for just myself so this is what I graze on all day.  Oh yes, a lot of Diet Pepsi and white wine.  So, we're doing fine.

Here's to a Happy Summer!

Jane x


Sunday, June 11, 2017

THINKING OUT LOUD

Most kids are out of school now for summer break, and in the days leading up to it the weather held promises of days and weeks of freedom.  Little league, family vacations, swimming, eating watermelon and popsicles, and just living without a schedule.

In late spring I could hear groups of children laughing and chatting as they walked past my house after school.  Through my open windows I could see groups of boys swinging their book bags and girls with their heads bent together whispering and giggling.

It's been a little over a decade since my own kids rounded the corner, my girls in their maroon jumpers and my boys in white polos and gray pants. My house would once again be filled with laughter, chatter and the occasional argument.

Those of you reading this may still have little people at home and are living the routine of making lunches, signing papers every evening, and making sure socks match.  As routine as that may seem and taken over your life, you don't always believe the people telling you, "Live in the moment.  They grow up so fast."

While I ramble on about my kids and yours, the point I really want to make is what inevitably happens to us.  As older parents, no one comes up to us at the church carnival and remarks, "My, you've aged so much! Time sure flies.  I remember you when you were just thirty-five!"

The truth is, just as our kids grow up and out of the nest, we face the reality that we are no longer these young, energetic and sometimes 'cool' people.  We have a few gray hairs and we don't always understand how to text on our cell phones with two thumbs.  We'd rather listen to the news on the car radio than music, and we guess the term 'chill' means ice in our vodka.  The list goes on and if you haven't realized your uncool ways, your kids will let you know.

So my four have flown the coop.  I'm happy for them in spite of missing all of that noise they generated in our house.  I marvel at how they've grown.  They have homes of their own, some even have a few rugrats that we are ecstatic over.  Still, it hits me at times; not only are they growing, I am too.  I forget that time hasn't stood still for me.  The children grew, my parents aged, but in the realm of life and in my mind, I'm still the young mother, wife, daughter.

These days I enjoy looking at the cute kiddos skipping down the street past my house.  I'm a proud mother who gave it my all and I respect this new generation of parents.  I hope they live in the moment, it goes by so fast even though I didn't believe the people who told me twenty years ago.  But shhhhhh...the next chapter is just as wonderful.  




Wednesday, May 31, 2017

LAKE GUEST HOUSE


Wisteria, 2017

A big Hello to all of you and a belated Happy Memorial Day!  It was nice, I'm sure, for so many of us to have a three day weekend and above all, remember our brave Americans.  I was seeing the red, white and blue proudly waving from anything and everything around the lake.  

We were a little laid back at The Blondie Lake Cottage.  I've been here for a while and The Husband came up late Friday night.  Abigail and Squall joined us Sunday.  All of our neighbors were around with friends and family spilling over into each others yards, and it just felt so good to be back here.  

The new couple next door are teachers in Chicago and had friends up who were also teachers.  That was pretty cool for Abby to meet them.  Two of the couples live in the neighborhood she just moved into.  It was also really nice to catch up with our good friends, Tom and Diane, who are also from Illinois and part-timers here.  We had dinner together here last night, all of us contributing something to the wonderful meal of beef tenderloin fillets, spinach salad, and corn on the cob.  Lovely people.  Diane likes to stay up here in the summer so I know I have a great friend to bum around with.  

The wisteria finally opened it's pretty blossoms yesterday.  This is off the balcony of our master bedroom.  So it's now two stories up and I have to sweet talk it to go up on to the arbor above this balcony!  It needs pruning big time but I'll wait until after the blooms.  And these  blooms will fill out and become even more magical in the next few days.  Looking at my vines, the puffy clouds and the lake in the background...I'm smiling from ear to ear.



I ordered an outdoor area rug from Overstock.  It came in just 3 days, I had it shipped straight here to the Lakehouse.  It was fun to play with the patio table and a few cute accessories.  I really, really love the color; I'm simply not sure why I've been so infatuated with the blue lately.  This is the boldest I've gone but I think outdoors things need to be bight and happy.  This rug is nice and thick and has a nubby feel to it.  It seems to catch the sand and whatnot on your feet.  It's a breeze to sweep and I'll find out how it is to use a blower on it.  



A few days in to my stay I went into a town about 35 minutes away, quite close to South Bend, IN., home of Notre Dame.  Great area.  A big, beautiful mall and any other adjacent areas with some of my fave shops...Bed, Bath & Beyond, HomeGoods, Hobby Lobby, DSW Shoes, Target.  Oh, I was a happy girl.  I picked up some of these decorative tabletop pieces (the metal bucket I had, (and of course the sand), and I added these chunky candles.  A nice crowd of tapers would be kind of exciting as well.  I might even bury a pillar candle down deep with just and inch or so showing.  So many possibilities.  The runner is from HomeGoods, the little picket planter from HL, and the pretty plant from my local nursery.  I had a ball there the other day.  I'm mostly planting pots and adding to my perennial bed.  More pics on that next time.  



I often talk of the Summerhouse...sometimes I call it the guesthouse as it's visually easy to understand.  The Husband call it the Little House, but he also calls Layla The Little Dog.  A memory thing for sure.  

It's our version of a freestanding sun porch.  Set back a bit from the house but still on the patio slab, it has 7 screened windows, a small front porch and measures about 13 x 13, something like a small bedroom.  I have it furnished in such a way that I can be alone doing my writing or reading, cool under the ceiling fan, a breeze blowing in and privacy.  Behind the closet door that you can see above, there is a twin bed that folds down.  It's called a Murphy Bed and takes up zero space unless it's down.    There are two so it makes a nice little place for couples to stay if they want privacy or even some of the teens in our family who want to stay up late talking.  


We recently had the whole house fitted for blinds by Home Depot.  They did an incredible job and the guy that installed them was definitely a perfectionist.  I have Roman shades inside the house, and in the Summerhouse, slatted white faux blinds.  I was afraid they would take away from the charm but it's really looking okay, don't you think?



The 4 x 6 sisal rug is from Overstock.  I wanted it smaller so we could see the pretty porcelain tile that was also in our kitchen before all the damage.  The drop leaf table and unmatching chairs were antique/vintage shopping scores along with the wicker chair (with the red cushions).  

It took me about two hours to clean, sweep, wipe down and scrub the floors.  The screen door isn't as tight sit should be so I get debris blowing under.  We have Lowe's coming out to measure for a new door as well as a storm door on the front of the house.  The wind and hard winters really do a number on everything up here.  We have a cute front porch on the Summerhouse but it's chipping and in need of painting.  No matter, I'll get my rockers and plants going and have a pic next time.  Hope I didn't bore you.



Squall enjoyed his first lake experience and absolutely loved the water.  He apparently has gills because he kept sticking his head underwater.  He was fascinated by the minnows and blue gills.  Abby was trying to wear him out; still technically a puppy, he can be a handful.  He just never got tired in spite of playing along the beach and long walks.  They both had a good time.  And I'm having a good time washing sheets today as Abby slept in one bed and Squall in another.  I'm so hospitable.  

Oh, the toys are back in town.  The wave runners are a blast and I'm really not a adventurist.  Sort of like a motorcycle on the water, you can really cruise or as I do, go slowly along the shore and admire the gorgeous houses lakeside.  


This is a house about 4 down from mine.  I walk by it often and have always love the deep shade of blue on the shakes against the crisp white.  Most of the homes are built on narrow lots that provide more lakefront space so they are mostly custom made.  This is a side view of this home.  For the heck of it I was walking the dogs and pulled the For Sale flier out of the mailbox.  Hang on to your hats: $1.7 million.  Back down the street to reality and my house!




I couldn't resist a picture of Miss Mad.  Isn't she just so darn cute?  I miss her so much.  I've been here 12 days and other than The Husband and Abigail being here over the weekend, its been pretty quiet.  I love that, I've gotten a lot of writing done.  I've read a few beach reads, done some yard clean up and planted some, but not all of the flowers I bought at our nursery last week.  So much to do but I pace myself, this is a peaceful break and there is no deadline as there seems to be when I only have weekends.  

I'll be home in time for my grandson Brooks' christening on Sunday.   I'll have little Madelyn under my watch on Tuesday.  Then I'll be back just enjoying the country air; the sound of the water lapping on the shore, the birds flitting to and fro out of the oak tree in front of the window that I look out of while rocking and dreaming.  Oh...and Milo and Layla, who are sending a postcard-Wish You Were Here!

Jane x

Thursday, May 18, 2017

GARDEN AND LAKE HAPPENINGS & A TOP ROMANTIC MOVIE MARATHON






Hello!  It feels like we are well into summer after the long, warm spring we had.  I've been beating myself up for not jumping into the gardening as fervently as I've done in the past, but every day comes with its own set of rules.  Everything I have coming up in the gardens are perennials like this clematis.  The past two years I've had my ivy choke it out so I've been pruning a lot.  And then I guess you can count the lettuce and spinach I planted a few weeks ago.  That will be ready to make some yummy salads with in another 2-3 weeks.  

Given that we are at the lake every weekend and I have little Madelyn here on Mondays, I don't have a lot of time to just go out and get dirty.  I have my patio table and chairs out but everything needs a good cleanup.  I feel exhausted looking at it.  Still...it makes my heart ache that we've had all of these great sunny days and I could use an hour or two getting some vitamin D and watching my dogs bask in the rays.  I just have to get to work to turn it into my little Shangri-La.   

I've talked a little about the work we are having on the front of our house; a new porch, sidewalk and driveway.  Newly painted gutters and shutters, new sod and bushes.  One huge project that's going to go on for weeks.  The porch starts next week.  We decided on 'piece by piece' stone and we have a great guy, a master mason, designing and doing the job.  I've yet to get quotes on the driveway, etc.  I'm going to have to do more walking surveillance in the neighborhood.  Bushes, hedges, plants...it's all a mystery suddenly.  In the meantime our house looks haunted.  I've always prized how pretty my porch looks with all my clay pots of impatiens every summer.  The gorgeous ivy and blue shutters making it look like a home in the south of France  Well, this may be an exaggeration, but you get my sentiment.  Anyway, something ate my lawn in spite of my dreadful and copious use of pesticides and fertilizers.  The porch was crumbling so bad I stopped getting creative with pots and window boxes.  Every time it rains I get mud puddles in the driveway.  This is very embarrassing for someone who takes pride in every bloom and blade of grass.  Just hanging in there.   


On the flip side, things at the lakehouse are moving along swimmingly.  After losing two summers with the repairs on the house, the beach was so overgrown with weeds and grass, the water filled with muck and mud and weeds, it was a huge endeavor to clean it up.   It was sort of cool though because of the lack of activity on our property, it became a haven for the blue herons and swans.  We've been seeing them here and there, but before long they will know the gig is up.  Long story short, we hired a small company that we used years ago when The Husband was sick.  It's fittingly called The Beach Boys.  The truckload of sand is delivered and then wheelbarrows are used to dump it in the water.  We go out about 15 feet so when swimming, your feet are touching a sandy bottom.  And then the beach itself...it speaks for itself.  I can't wait to sit there with a good book and sunscreen.  



The Husband surprised me with this table and chair set he ordered from Hayneedle.  It's our new favorite website.  Great prices.  I have to say I like it.  His main concern was more seating for our ever growing family.  I'm okay about him choosing it (behind my back.  Ahem.), but I have the fun job of picking out seat cushions and an outdoor rug.  I'll share when I get them in.

In this shot you can see the side of the Summerhouse, or guest house, in the background.  I have yet to go in there to De-bug, De-cobweb/spiderweb, De-stinkbug.  Lots of scrubbing and airing out.  Do you see the little front porch on it?  It's so stinking cute.  It's not very much a guest house, we do have two twin beds that fold out, they are behind closet doors.  But I have wicker furniture, a comfy rocker, a small drop leaf table and chairs, a few lamps and a TV.  There are screened windows all around so it's heavenly to escape there to read or just chill.  At night it's a place to get away from mosquitos.  The ceiling fan can also be switched to fan out heat on colder days/nights.  I'll take some pictures soon.  We've had this little place for over ten years, I think I've shared pics before.  



What would a post be without a little blurb about Miss Mad?  She took her first plane ride to Seattle last week.  4 1/2 hours.  Emily said she was great.  Emily was also drinking Bloody Mary's.  Mike had work and his brother also lives there so they stayed with him.  Em brought back some fabulous cooking oils from Pike's Market for me as a Mother's Day gift.  She knows me.  And she has some for herself.  She has always been interested in cooking but now that she's home more to make meals, she's exploring much like I did.  And speaking of Mother's Day, she and Mike had a little barbecue Sunday and we all had a ball.  Two new mothers in the family!   

Madelyn and I had our day together yesterday when Emily worked.  She was fighting a cold and was getting worse as the day went on.  I held her most of the day as when she seemed really sleepy, I'd lay her down and she'd immediately wake up crying.  I'm just so attached to her.  We were hot and sweaty (85 degrees and no air conditioners yet), but I held her and smelled her and kissed her in spite of us sticking together.  Turns out she has an ear infection.  Emily was beside herself.  Sad that babies (and pets) can't tell us what is wrong   We just do our best.     



The Husband went to the lake alone last weekend, I just chose to stay home feeling like I have more to do here.  I sort of relish my time alone, too, which is odd because I'm home alone all day.  So I stocked up on some good food and wine, and had a real movie marathon Friday and Saturday night.  More later.  

I needed a few things from Target last week and of course, had to browse through the book department.  We no longer have any bookstores in my immediate area.  There is a Barnes and Noble about 40 minutes away.  So I picked up two books I absolutely didn't need.

Beatriz Williams has a number of novels...I wish I had started with her first because some characters reappear in novels.  I read The Secret Life of Violet Gray, and just loved it.  Williams has a great way of mixing the past and the present, and creating memorable characters.  She truly knows her history which makes her writing almost non-fiction.  And did I say her characters can be incredibly laugh out loud funny?  Just a nice mix in this novel.  Can't wait to start this one.  Another nice shout out, she's on Instagram and I happened to leave a comment and she responded.  Love that.  The real deal.  

The other book, The Girls in the Garden, sold me by reading the jacket and reviews.  Hope it lives up to my expectations.  And I hope I can find some time to sit down with one of them...and the stack I already have.  


I may be biased but I think my dogs are very photogenic.  Mostly because they are often doing stupid things or looking a little more human-like than we care to think.  This is Layla's chair.  I'm not kidding.  She and Milo each have their own just as The Husband and I do.  The Bunker's.  

*******

A sweet blogger wrote that she likes some of my random recommendations and thoughts, so I thought I'd give you a few every now and then.  Nothing categorized (Who? Me?).  So here you go...


Weekend Movie Marathon When The Husband Was Away

Friday night:  Dear John with  Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried.  Typical Nicholas Sparks tear jerker, but jerk it did.

The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen and the great Betty White.  I thought this would just be another mediocre RomCom but it was really good.  Good storyline and fun.  And I never knew Sandra Bullock had such a nice shape.  Sigh...

Confessions of a Shopaholic with Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy.  I love all of the books in this series by Sophie Kinsella.  They are hysterically funny and the Brits do humor right.  Isla Fisher is a wonderful comedian and I'd love to have her hair.

Please don't judge me by my shallow movie picks, it was Friday night and I was a woman on my own.  Did you think I was going to watch Phycho or When a Stranger Calls?

Saturday night:

Sabrina with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond.  No, not the classic.  Shoot me.  This was okay.

Friends With Benefits with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.  Cute, funny and a relevant storyline in spite of what the name implies.

Wedding Crashers with Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughan, Rachel McAdams.  Alright, I know I've lost all credibility here but this was really a good movie all around.  I thought it was going to be like one big bachelor party and in the first 20 minutes it does seem pretty raw (lots of bad language).  But then a traditional story line ensues with great acting and it tugs at your heart.  This version had what seemed like 10 minute long commercials every 20 minutes.  Eternity, but I was determined to watch it until the end.  

******

Abby was here Sunday and we were going to watch Lion.  That would have been a real awakening for me after indulging in mindless pleasure for two whole nights.  She fell asleep early and I binge watched The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  :-)

******

A quick meal I want to make that fits in with my love of one dish meals (bowls as they are called in some trendy spots):  The Mediterranean Bowl.  It consists of any sort of grilled meat or firm fish (or none),  sliced zucchini and eggplant, tomato, red onion, couscous, feta cheese, green olives and a sprinkle of olive oil and red wine vinegar.  S&P as desired.  Mouth watering.

******

While we are in the kitchen I have some trivial drivel on some shortcuts I take as I'm inherently lazy in spite of being a perfectionist.  

I love a clean stovetop but don't like to clean it.  When I have to brown or saute foods that splatter oil, I spread a sheet of foil next to the skillet.  Toss it out when you're done and no clean up. 

At the end of the day I like to clean my kitchen sink out by squirting a few drops of liquid dish soap and scrubbing.  This cuts grease like charm.  No chemicals or products you hate.  

I'm weird about bathrooms.  I've heard that your kitchen sink has more germs than your bathroom sink but  I'm not convinced.  I keep disinfectant wipes in the vanity below the sink and use them every single morning.  I'm careful to wipe the faucet handles, the pump dispenser of the liquid soap and the flush handle.  Very obvious why. 

I wish I had another tidbit but as I said, I'm pretty lazy.

******

Some quotes I wrote down and immediately forgot.

Praise the effort, not the outcome.
The biggest goal is to move on and not keep making the same mistakes.  Nope, just new ones.  
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
The problem is trying to fill up everyone's cup because yours is empty.

I did not write down the sources but heck, we'd forget that, too.  

See you all soon!

Jane x




Thursday, May 4, 2017

DECORATING AT THE LAKEHOUSE



I've been downloading photos and writing this post in my head for days.  I keep thinking, "I'll have the time tonight", or, "I'll have the time tomorrow."  Well, it never happens unless I sit down and make it a priority.  So...here I am at 11:30 at night trying to put my words together in a sane way.  

Hello and goodbye to the the pretty tulips.  With the mild winter we had they really don't last long.  I was happy to have the beds cleaned out and now I'm ready for warmer temps, a few additional plants and bulbs, and a ton of shredded bark which has disintegrated over the past few years.  The Husband and son Kevin brought my patio furniture out of the shed Saturday and I just don't have the enthusiasm to get things spiffed up when the weather is hovering in the 40's and 50's along with non stop rain.  Go figure.  



I'm loving my Monday walks with Madelyn.  It's just more fun with a baby in a stroller (even if she snoozes most of the time).  People tend to smile warmly at me much more, as opposed to when I'm running/walking, sweating and panting.

The university campus is 3 blocks away on a whole 2 mile city block.  On the grounds is the all-girl Catholic high school my girls attended.  The all-boy Catholic high school is there as well, and my boys went there.  The grounds are beautiful; a large pond with a fountain, plenty of benches all around, beautiful trees and all sorts of flowers and plants.



Occasionally you meet the random goose, duck, turtle or chipmunk.  The kids going to and from class or the dorms look so much younger than I remember being at that age.  I love their care free ways, laughter and dedication to education.  I feel a little melancholy as well...what would I do, be, if I could do it all again?  Then I look down at this precious 5 month old baby and know I wouldn't change a thing.   



Lake time this past weekend.  It was rainy and cold but it wasn't that bad because I still have much to keep me busy indoors.  The Husband worked hard on the garage which isn't so horrible as it's heated.  We packed up a ton of stuff...mostly mine to bring up.  We hardly had room for Milo and Layla.  And speaking of the 2 monster-dogs, I've been walking them on leashes lately.  Milo is always off leash as he knows to stay close to me and can find his way home if he wanders, but Layla is as quick as a bunny and has to be caught and wrestled to the ground.  So we walk together and it's much like walking with Madelyn, a purpose instead of exercise.   

Now look at that water.  Hard to believe in a month there will be boats pulling water skiers, jet ski's, pontoons and sailboats.  



The color is a bit off here, it was night and I did my best to edit the photo.  I was up reading after The Husband had gone to bed and I could feel how vast the Great room is.  The ceiling is 19 feet high.  You can see the balcony off our bedroom on the far upper right.    I just enjoy the heck out of this house and often marvel that it's ours.  



I hope I'm not creating a mishmash in doing each room a bit differently after our flood.  I wanted a beach feel and I think I created that on the lower level.  Upstairs, the two guest room are a work in progress.  But as far as the master bedroom, I had a plan.  I wanted it very simple and laid back.  No frills.  Been there, done that.  I hope I don't bore you with these photos  

On this wall I really wanted to showcase an antique trestle table The Husband found.  He had wanted to use it as a desk but that never happened.  I decided it would be more spare than a dresser, so I keep a basket of my makeup and 'products' here as well as a wood framed mirror from HomeGoods.  The  lamp is from The Beekman collection at Target.  



Our home is a double A-frame so the ceilings are a little wonky.  We've had our bed on every single wall but I think we nailed it by placing it on an angle and leaving a lot of free space in the room.  The Husband found the headboard at the original Marshall Field's in downtown Chicago right before we moved in.  I was thinking of getting something upholstered and then sentimentality won out.  All of the Bedding is from Target.  The rug is from Wayfair.  I posted a picture of this on Instagram and the rug got the most compliments.  It's 80% wool so I would never use it in any space other than this...I know it would be impossible to clean.  In fact, that's a balcony you can see in the background.  I'm currently in the midst of teaching the dogs to wipe their paws before they come in.  ;-D


And the last bedroom pic I'll bore you with.  I stole these chairs from a little bistro set I had on the balcony.  Spur of the moment and I think I'm going to get a simple bench with a cushion at some point in time.  The Husband was really surprised with the details of the room when I let him come and look.  If you enlarge the picture you can see the canvas print of Lady Anne.  I found this at Joss and Main (gotta love that website!).  He really likes it as he had a horse when he was young.  

I think I'm done with this room and I feel so comfy and relaxed when I crawl in bed at night.  



There always seems to be so sort of adventure or happening during our time away that would never occur at home.  Here we have Layla nearly being drowned in the kitchen sink after rolling on a dead bird.  What is it about dogs that they seem to find the stinkiest ever and have to roll and saturate themselves in it?  And then they want to snuggle in your bed with you.  I scrubbed her, threw her collar in the washing machine and she proceeded to run around the house like a maniac.  Now, why do they do that?



Milo is super healthy for being 14 years old.  He's pretty deaf and sleeps a lot but so do I.  The other day I saw him go after a rabbit on our backyard and he was as fast and agile as a Greyhound.  I'm treasuring moments with him more and more and I find myself taking a lot of pictures of him doing everyday things like this.  It may sound crazy but when we lost our first dog, Shadow, I really regretted not brushing his beautiful black coat more.  As useless it is to blame myself for something like that, I want to relish every minute with my dogs; hug them more, bury my head in their fur, shower them with love and attention.  I think all of you animal lovers understand this.  

Okay...I need to wrap this up.  I want to end with the latest randomlings in Blondieville.

~Latest Good Movies I Rented/Bought On Demand Out Of Sheer Boredom:

When Harry Met Sally (I know, I'm terribly late for the party and I totally loved it).
Cousins (I've seen this about 5 times but how can you resist Isabella Rossellini?)
My Brooklyn Bakery (Fun, bittersweet and lovable characters)
Mothers and Daughters (Lots of great actors and makes you examine your own relationships with your mother/daughter)


Finally, I couldn't help but bring this up as it's been nagging at me.  You know I love to watch the Chicago themes shows;  Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, etc.  I love that it is true to my city but sometimes it's a bit off.  I recently saw an episode that really got me.  Two of the characters were sitting in a restaurant and I happened to look at the water glasses on the table.  I was aghast.  No ice.  No ice!!!  That is not how we do it.  First of all, we don't have to ask for ice water.  It is the first thing brought to your table.  And with ice (did I mention that?).  I remember that at many of our meals in restaurants as we travelled in the South, we were given water with no ice.  In fact, when we were at a restaurant in Tennessee, we saw on the menu under the listing of beverages, room temperature water.  I found that odd.  So I ask that you guys weigh in on that.  Ice?  No ice?  Room temp water?

That's it for now.

Jane

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