Sunday, April 23, 2017


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

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.


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

Daddy & Maddy:  Warm weather grilling in the backyard

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

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

Jane xxx

Friday, April 14, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My menu is much the same:

Baked Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Macaroni and Cheese
Dinner Rolls

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

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

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

Homemade Almond Bark Candy, 2015

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

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

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

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

Jane x

Friday, April 7, 2017


Beautiful Tulips (sadly not my own)

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

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

My first shamrock victim 

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

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

Appetizing or no?

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

Simple and Healthy Artichoke and Bean Salad

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

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

Creamed Chipped Beef

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Weekend to everyone!

Jane x