Wednesday, May 8, 2019

MILO





Milo. 9/23/2003---5/7/2019







Please, please watch this video.  I simply can't share my emotions right now but I think you, my friends, will know and understand if you listen and watch.

(Skip ads and enlarge screen, then turn volume up high. Minimize screen to exit)

Love to all of you for your support and kind words over these last 18 months.

Taking a little break. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A CHICAGO BRIDAL SHOWER & SO MUCH MORE!


Rustic Herb Pot Tray

Hello friends!  And happy almost May.  In spite of snow yesterday, the sun was back out today and temps were around d 55 degrees.  That gets a big yay from me.  Spring fever is on my mind.  It's hard to believe it's still April; the anticipation for spring and summer has been much more on my mind than past years.  Maybe it's because I'm currently trying to get my ducks in a row at both houses.  Here in the city we need some new fencing and gates for the backyard, and I need to work on getting some perennials along the back fence.  I also have some areas to reseed and others to mulch.  It's all heavy stuff so I'm not too sure how I'm going to get it done. Maybe like the ant and the rubber tree plant?

I gave up trying to start plants from seeds indoors although I did give it a respectable try years ago.  I'm loving this little wood tray with pots that I can just plunk herbs down in.  It has a cute chicken wire top.  I do have an herb garden but this is sort of convenient in the kitchen just to snip and use.  I bought it at Antique Farmhouse a few years ago.  If you haven't been to the website, go have a look/see.



My Daffs

The daffodils are up and blooming and since I snapped this, I also have tulips.  Every spring I wish I had added more bulbs the previous fall.  I just want to fill in some gaps.  And along this wood fence I want to add more plants as I mentioned earlier.  I get a lot of sun here. :)


Shower Flowers


Abby's bridal shower was two weeks ago and everything turned out just lovely.  I sometimes felt like the running around would never end but it was fun coming up with ideas and working with the other gals involved.  I shared more pics on my Instagram account, which you can see here if you have a feed.  

I bought these mercury glass containers at Michael's.  They are actually meant for candles.  I think I bought about eight in different shapes and sizes.  I ordered mini carnations from a florist.  Abby wanted one single color, very simple.  I then added baby's breath and eucalyptus to fill out the bouquets.  

A View of The Room

This is how the tables looked.  I also included clear glass tea light holders with the same glittery stones around the edges.  The shower was from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.  We had a buffet of heavy appetizers, cocktails, and the pub's signature red and white wine sangria.

Tabletops

Tom's sister, Katie, made these cute little pots of succulents as party favors.  They made for cute decorations on the tables.  I was lucky to bring a few stray ones home and can't wait to plant them in a shallow dish.

Gift Table

My daughter, Emily, did a great job decorating the the table set up for gifts.  We requested them to not be wrapped so it was a great display.  Em also made a banner of pics of the happy couple over the years.  Since they have been together for just over ten years, right out of high school, you could really see how they had changed!

You might recognize the book bundle from this post.  I found them at this Etsy shop.  I also had napkins monogrammed with the same words.



The Buffet

The buffet provided various 'heavy' appetizers.  I mentioned this was a casual evening affair so we wanted guests to feel free to sit at a table or mingle with small plates.  The fare included Caprese Flatbread, Santa Fe Chicken Rolls, Flame Grilled Mini Burgers, Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls, and Mac 'N Cheese Bites, to name a few offerings.  





Let Them Eat Cake

First Abby wanted doughnuts on her dessert table.  I checked some of the top doughnut shops and bakeries in Chicago, and although the flavors sounded insanely good, they didn't have any sort of visual loveliness.  We then looked at individual mini cakes  and pastries sold at one of our better grocery stores.  She wasn't too keen on those.  So we settled on Nothing Bundt Cakes.  If you have the chain in your area, I highly recommend it.  I ordered the Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Strawberries and Cream, and Raspberry Orange.  Each cake serves 18-20.  I ordered these little cake boxes and printed labels from The Stationery Studio, and guests were genuinely delighted to take a piece of cake home.  I was happy that none of the cake went to waste.  I would recommend having some of these boxes on hand for any occasion.  They can hold cookies, candy--any sort of take home sweet.  They come flat and easy to fold and close.   

Let The Games Begin

Emily put together three little games, mostly revolving around how well we knew the future bride and groom, and how well they knew each other.  Katie made up cute little gift bags filled with fun beauty and pampering items for the lucky winners.  



Yes To The First Dress

Apparently its not just about the wedding gown anymore.  Abby found about four dresses for the shower.  This is the one she chose.  I have always thought that she has beautiful style and this not only complimented how pretty she is (if I do say so myself!), it was gorgeous!  Now she's on the hunt for dresses for the rehearsal dinner, a night on the town near the resort, poolside wear, and the Sunday breakfast.  Me?  I have nothing so far.  Ugh... 



A Winner of a Recipe

Emily made this salad awhile ago and I always wanted to try it.  This is utterly simple to make and looks absolutely beautiful on your table or buffet.  It's tart, creamy and just delicious.  I served it with my Easter dinner buffet.  Enjoy!

Emily's Grape Salad




8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 t. vanilla
2 lbs. seedless red grapes
2 lbs. seedless green grapes
3 T. brown sugar
3 T. chopped pecans

1)  Beat cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Add grapes and toss to coat.

2)  Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and chill.  Before serving, sprinkle over the brown sugar and pecans.  



A Bowl of Olives


I love finding books shared by bloggers.  My friend Monique, who writes the blog Le Table de Nana, is not only a talented gardener, cook, lover of family and friends, but a talented watercolorist.  She shares many of her paintings and hand lettering creations right on her blog.  Go have a peek.  She shared this author, Sara Midda, on her Instagram account and I was intrigued.  Off I went to Amazon and found this gem of a book.  It's a work of art and if you love watercolors and hand lettered books (Susan Branch is a wonderful example), this is a keepsake of a book.  Here is the link. 



Molly on the Range




This sweet girl has a show on the Food Network--I just discovered it.  I am so charmed by her vibrant  personality.  She's a young and talented presence much like Rachel Ray offered us in the mid 2000's.  I watched the whole season, Pinned some recipes, then found her cookbook, Molly on the Range at Amazon.  I really like the straightforward recipes, uncomplicated but creative.  And you can't help settling down to read her stories of living in the Midwest (Yay!), moving to New York, and then a farm in Minnesota.  She is also an award winning food blogger and you can find her website here.  I give everything she does 5 stars!

April Snow

Yeah, we had this white stuff a few days ago.  I like to think that it looks like a nice spattering of baby's breath.  It's hard to believe that a few days prior on Easter Sunday, we all gathered outside with the grandkids and extended family to toss around a ball, nosh on after dinner appetizers and sweets, and raise a few glasses.  And I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter...I think I sort of skimmed past that.  

Okay!  I'm all caught up and I'm going to sign off now.  I'm off to the lake later this week with so many ideas, work, cleanup, and happily-- some decor fun.  Moreover,  time for myself, and time for Layla and Milo, who is in the end stage of his disease.  He's going to have some great outdoor (and inside) time and  at the place he has always loved.  The Husband is going to have an additional ten weeks of daily antibiotic infusions so we are up in the air as to how we are going to work things for now.  The main thing is to try to clear up this infection and his pain.  He's comfortable as long as he can lie down once in awhile and not do any heavy lifting.  Please keep him in your prayers.  


It's a Dogs Life

This is my guy, around 2005.  He took to the water and sun like a true lake dog!

See ya soon!

Jane x

Monday, April 8, 2019

MARCHING INTO SPRING: NEW RECIPES, BOOKS, AND BLONDIE ANTICS




Pretty Tea Roses


Hi friends.  I've actually been working on this post for awhile.  Telling myself I needed to get my bum going, feeling guilty that I still wasn't moving, overthinking the guilt, perusing my photos, editing them, blah, blah blah.  Just not focused. I know there has been a very big change in blogging since Instagram came along.  My comments and page views have gone down tremendously.  Personally, it affects my motivation to write in a way that I tell myself--no one is holding their breath for your next post.  No matter, I will never give up blogging although I often come on here with my tail between my legs for lack of discipline.  One good thing I want to say, I recently "cleaned out" my cache and cookies (and I have no idea what that means).  I was pleased to see so many blogs from the past pop up on my feed.  People I followed, went way back with, and absolutely loved were all there.  So I'm touching base a little at a time.  If you are reading this and you haven't heard from me in awhile, it wasn't intentional.  


Corned Beef and Cabbage

I enjoyed reading about your St. Patrick's Day celebrations and delicious meals.  We celebrate pretty hard here on the Southside.  We have a huge population of Irish folks, many first generation.  I like to brag that we have the largest St. Paddy's Day parade in the US, and of course, the Chicago River is dyed green (it's vegetable dye and very safe for whatever lurks in there). The Husband and I were content at home while our kids and their kids hit up the parade and after-parties. 



 I made the traditional dinner of corned beef and cabbage.  I poured two glasses of beer for The Husband and I and added a bit of green dye.  He had no idea what I was surprising him with. ;-D   So I'm wondering about corned beef.  We all have our cooking methods: oven, slow cooker, and boiling, which my mother did and her mother did.  How do you do your corned beef?  I remember my mother in law cutting her cabbage very precisely and skewered chunks with toothpicks.  During the last 5 minutes of cooking the meat, carrots and potatoes, she added her cabbage and let it happily float and steam.  She hated it all soggy and unrecognizable.  She was so cute and such a dear.




The Husband and I recently found out our little used bookstore had moved locations and expanded.  We went one Sunday afternoon just recently and pleasantly got lost.  I wish I had thought to make a list of authors-- I kind of walked around aimlessly.  Did I want drama?  Mysteries?  Thrillers?  It was a little confusing as I usually search recommendations from friends, bloggers, newspapers, and magazines.  Next time I'll go armed.  You can trade in your own books for credit towards what you purchase.  And I have stacks.  Most of them not read yet. 

Our Cherry Pie


When Madelyn visits or I get to have her here for a good amount of time, it's like having a little friend.  When I was younger, maybe I was too busy with four little ones running every which way at once, maybe they kept themselves amused together.  Maybe time has gone by and my memories are all fuzzy.  But I want to eat this kid up.  I want to show her how to cook, bake, clean up, brush her teeth (she loves my electric toothbrush but of course I only let her feel it), put things in the garbage, wash dishes...more on that last one in a bit.  

Little ones like repetition.  She really blows my mind that she remembers what we did the last time she was over and gets that ball rolling before I can say anything.  She loves to bake.  Of course she loves dough--what child doesn't?  But she's smart; she knows we have to dust the counter to roll the dough (and she quite good with my old rolling pin).  With this pie she was a little inpatient when we had to cut the top, but she loved using a fork to press down the edges, and then "painting" with egg.  Once it was finished she had the last little bit of dough and was playing with it.  I wanted to make a little flower cut out but I tell you, she almost arm wrestled me for it!  Can you spot it?

My Maid

Our new things is doing the dishes.  She has a little tea set, and of usually our baking things, and I think she could stand on that chair for hours.  Kids have a very early infatuation with water.  This was the first time we did dishes, and she was soaked from head to toe.  The next time I knew to take off her clothes and wrap her in a towel.  Forget the hardwood floors, she was having fun.  It's all about imitating, imagination, and repetition.  I'm in heaven!

She's super interested in her Barbie and Skipper dolls.  She's learned how to name them and give them voices from her older cousin, Ella.  When I was little, and even when my girls were little, it was all about dressing them in the latest fashion.  I went on Amazon and my mouth dropped open at all of the cool set-ups your little plastic gals can play in.  I ordered a little supermarket with mini fruits and veggies, cartons of milk and orange juice, etc.  That turned out to be one of her favorites with the familiar shopping cart as well as the stroller with the baby that Skipper pushes around while holding her Starbucks coffee and cell phone.  So I had about five of these little plastic scenarios set up on the coffee table in my den.  She was so surprised that Grammy had Barbies!  Her eyes scanned it and became shiny. "For me?  For me?"  We played together for a few hours.  And she happily shares.  Her cousin, Brooks, was here the other day and they were sweet together.  He's my only grandson so I think I need to stock up on some action heroes. :)




Roasted Vegetable Pizza

I have really been cooking up a storm.  Please don't think I'm being over confident or anything.  I think I've said it before, it's like a hobby.  It relaxes me and makes me happy.  Lately my recipes have been all about what I have on hand and I just take it from there.  Sadly, I simply can't stage and photograph food so I'm at a loss as to how to share some of the dishes I make.  Maybe I could do an illustration.  I used to sketch quite well if I must say so myself.  ;-D

 Let me give you my take on Chicago pizza.  It's not all about pan pizza or deep dish.  You can order it of course, but most of us here on the Southside love our thin crust, salty tomato sauce, and toppings.  The Husband orders our delivered pizzas "well done" and it's quite heavenly.  Smokey, crispy, crunchy, and so good.

So this is my game here.  The pre-made crust gets a tiny smear of sauce, some basil and oregano.  Take any veggies you like, toss them with a little bit of olive oil and give them 15 minutes in a 425 degree oven. Then scatter all of it on the pizza crust, a handful of cheese--your choice, some salt and pepper, and then bake  for about 15 minutes to finish it off.  I feel good about eating a pizza like this as the crust is so thin that you aren't consuming a ton of carbs.  I don't remember the brand of these crusts but just look around.  Then do it your way.  Or--if you have time, make your own crust.  Check out my Pinterest page for some dandy ones.  In fact, just go and have a peek at my Pinterest account, the icon is on my sidebar.



Not Your Average Pizza

This bad boy had me scratching my head but I thought it was about time to really venture into the wild.  I have the cookbook, Delish, but this is a recipe I found on their website.  The only description was, "Just try it" and I did.  Very easy, not a ton of ingredients, and all of the topping played together well.  I used one of those thin pizza crusts I mentioned above so I didn't invest a lot of time or waste.  But I really think this is a winner and I'll put it right up there with the 'not so regular' chili, Sloppy Joe's, burgers, spaghetti...that this book has inspired me to do.  Remember the Fried Lasagna in my last post?  Read about it and another fun app here.

  But before you rush over to the recipe, let me tell you how I changed it up before I made it and would definitely do/not do the next time:

1)  Use more mozzarella cheese.  Spread that stuff out all the way to the edges so you get it in every bite.

2). Rather than six slices of bacon, just fry up the whole pound.  You know you're going to munch on a few pieces and give the dog a few bits.  I think the pizza needs more anyway, and again, don't forget those edges.  

3). The pickles photographed really well, but in reality, I would cut them in half.  I felt that getting a whole slice in a bite was major puckering up.  

I really hope you try this.  My actual cookbook has a whole chapter devoted to pizza's and I'm going to keep trying to take the creative road with them.  


 
My Latest Read

I'm slow but persistent.  I started this and I'm liking it.  Moriarty creates the most complex characters, sometimes too many of them to keep track of, and I felt this with Big Little Lies (the movie worked out better for me).  I'm reading this book a little slower, backtracking sometimes to look for some key pieces when I feel a little lost, and it's definitely a page turner.  She creates thrillers with a nice amount of humor.  Her characters are people we can understand a bit, maybe identify with in spite of their flaws.  Has anyone read this yet?  And can you recommend any other new novels?




My Favorite New Bootie

I had been pinning these on my favorite shoe website, Sole Society.  Things are a bit pricey but you can catch some good markdowns and I've always gotten good quality shoes.  These will transfer well from cold weather to warm.  They will look good with slim jeans rolled up a bit, and even skirts and dresses.  

Another website I found that I'm loving is Roolee.  I think their clothes are breezy and sweet.  Who can't like a cute linen dress billowing around a model dancing in a field of wildflowers?  My daughters and I are loving this site, I've ordered a dress and shoes, Abby ordered the same shoes, and Emily bought two cute dresses.  Tap the links to these websites.  I think they are age appropriate for us Over-Forties-Crowd, as well as our daughters.  




Bunnies Multiplying

They came out of their bin, were dusted off, and scattered around the house along with a few nests and eggs.  I'm starting to plan Easter dinner.  We have quite a crowd coming and I'm going to have to squeeze in some extra tables for the first time.  



Doggie Naps

Milo and Layla grab the sun wherever and whenever they can.  I share so much about Milo that sometimes little Layla doesn't get asked to the prom.  She's thirteen and healthy, and maybe I lean too much on what I've heard that smaller dogs live longer.  And I guess I pacify myself with that because Milo is on borrowed time.  In his case, his cancer came back last September.  With nothing left to do it's been all about waiting it out.  He's different everyday.  His back problems cause him to move slowly and his senility is pretty bad.  He paces and is confused sometimes but overall this is simply age progression.  The vet has said that we need to look for signs of no interest in anything, no appetite, and signs of pain.  So we take it day by day.  Thank you for your prayers.  I share a bit more about this journey on my Instagram feed, if you'd like to visit.  If you have an account, I'm under Blondies Journal.  

And an update on The Husband.  I wrote about the pain in his back and the biopsy he had in my last post.  The results were that he has a bacterial and fungi infection near and possibly in his sacral area.    He had a port put in his upper right arm and he goes to a nearby hospital, rather than downtown to Northwestern Memorial, every morning, seven days a week for an infusion of antibiotics.  He's on week five of the seven weeks and then he'll have another MRI.  He's been working from home this last month and a half and that's a real game changer for both of us!  I don't think I'm going to elaborate on that right now as this post has been going on almost a week of me writing, and maybe more for you to read.  

Abby's bridal shower is next Saturday.  There are four of us planning and it's still a lot of work; phone calls, running around,  putting ideas together, but I think we are on track.  I'll share the details and all about the celebration in my next post.   

Getting the lakehouse  ready for summer is a busy time and it looks like I'll be on my own.  The Husband not only has his infusions, but he's in some pain and not really ready for that strenuous work.  He also has to be ready to go downtown if he has court.  So I'll be heading to Michigan after Easter and with the help of The Beach Boys and my lawn guy, get the beach replenished, the boats back in, and the yard cleaned up.  I'll have to hire for a lot of help on outdoor repairs, and I hope my daughters will pop up to some deep cleaning with me of that big 'ol house.  Thank God for my sons and son in law's for their help as well.  How much The Husband can be there, I just don't know.  But there is no reason for me to not get out of Dodge for a few weeks (or more).  ;-D

Okay, winding up here.  I am doing a little makeover of the blog and I hope to share soon.  A little bit more content besides the Perils of Pauline, but don't worry, my life is better than fiction. 

Okay--I'm ready to hit Publish right now without doing a 50+ grammatical/spell checks...I'll fix that later tomorrow.  Just enjoy. :)  

Happy Spring, friends!

Jane x

Saturday, March 2, 2019

FUN FOOD RECIPES, CHICAGO NIGHTLIFE, & GOOD READS


Grocery Store Tulips and iris


Hi Friends!  I hope everyone has made it through the bitter snow, cold, ice, and wind that February slammed us with.  Well, most of us.  We survived here, I think I have acclimated myself to the cold over my lifetime so I can't complain too much.  Weather like this does give us a reason to settle in and  find our coziness, whether it's curled up in a chair reading or creating something  filling and comforting in the kitchen.  I've been doing both and I'll share more later in this post.




Wedgwood Infinity flutes and Love Knot Cake Knife and Server


There is a heightened sense of anticipation here as we check the boxes on plans for Abby and Tom's wedding day.  I try to help in any way to simplify what I can for her.  When she gets overwhelmed she tends to worry and retreat, so when I went ahead and purchased the champagne flutes that she and the groom will toast each other with at the reception, as well as the cake knife and server, I got a simple and sincere nod of gratefulness.  I wanted to get a crystal pattern she could add to.  This design is by Vera Wang for Wedgwood and it has a bit of a modern edge to it.  The days of collecting wedding china and silver seems to have fallen to the wayside. 




When I got married 33 years ago, we had a very small wedding and I didn't register for china.  I guess I might have bemoaned it a few times to The Husband because one Saturday he was out and about and called me from an estate sale that he had stopped at.  He described for me a beautiful set of china being sold.  The granddaughter of the owner said that she remembered many Sunday dinners where this delicate china graced the dining room table.  In addition to the service for sixteen, there were serving plates, bowls, a sugar and creamer, and a gravy boat.  And the granddaughter proudly said that not one piece had been broken over the sixty years her grandmother had it, and it would have made her very happy to know it would be enjoyed by another family. The Husband described it to me and I just knew I would love it, especially with the heartwarming history that went along with the set.  So this is my china, over ninety years old and I haven't chipped or broken one piece. :) 


I was reading a blog post and found a link to a girl who has an Etsy shop.  She creates something sweet with these old books and you can have whatever you want stamped on them.  Love at first sight.  I'm going to attempt to make something for Abby's bridal shower.  If I goof it up I can order it.  You can visit Marisa here.

Table Runner from Hobby Lobby


Emily and I made a trip to Hobby Lobby recently to break up our cabin fever.  I was looking for a mirror for a wall in my bedroom.  I had searched every website and store and just couldn't find what I wanted.  Mirrors can be very expensive and I really don't know how or why similar mirrors can differ so much in price.  I resigned myself to just continuing my search in antique stores and yard sales.  However, I stumbled on one at HL and bought it on the spot.  $60 buck-a-roos!  It is super heavy so The Husband has to put plugs in the wall.  I am going to help because I know that using a drill is really holding me back from doing a lot of things on my own.  And when I get this room the way I want it, I'll share.  Our bedroom set is traditional cherry with the high, old fashion four poster bed.  I'm going to stop fighting what it is with adding trendy pieces and just get back to the roots of a it's cozy and classic look.  Stay tuned.

I am sharing this picture to show you the cute table runner I also picked up from Hobby Lobby.  I didn't know they had started to sell kitchen items such as this...placemats, dishtowels, potholders, and more.  This is very well made, lined on the opposite side, but I paid full price.  We'll see if they mark things down, perhaps when the seasons change.




The Husband really turned me into a cooking monster when he gave me this cookbook on Valentine's Day.  I get emails from the Delish website and Pin a lot of their recipes.  I wasn't really thrilled at first, the photography was very "in your face", and as I leafed through it, I noted a lot of gooey, greasy food that you could imagine college kids noshing on in their off campus houses.  But after looking through it for a few days, I started to see the pattern of taking everyday pizza, pasta, fried chicken, noodles, appetizers and dips, to a whole new level.  Definitely not for someone watching their weight, not healthy at all.  But intriguing.  So I made a few things.  Please note: as much as I didn't quite like the photography in this book, it's a lot better than mine!  In fact, the food pictures reflect how fun these recipes are.



Fried Lasagna

I modified the amount of ingredients in the recipe and made some good additions as well.  

Cooking spray
10-14 lasagna noodles, cooked according to packaged directions
15 oz. ricotta cheese
4 eggs, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 T fresh basil or oregano leaves, or 3 t dried
S & P
1 3/4 c mozzarella cheese
3/4 c flour
2 1/2 c Italian seasoned bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for frying
Marinara for dipping

While you are boiling your noodles, spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Prepare your filling with the ricotta cheese, 1 egg, garlic, herbs and salt and pepper (I had fresh basil on hand and it really made a difference once it all came together).  When noodles are cooked and drained, lie them out flat on parchment paper or a large cutting board.  Spread 3 tablespoons of the filling (I added the tablespoons in little dollops so it would spread easily).  Fold the noodles three times to form a small 'packet'.  Place on the baking sheet and pop in your freezer for 30 minutes.  


While the noodles are firming up in your freezer, make three separate bowls for the flour, 3 eggs, and bread crumbs.  You can see my little assembly line.  Bring your lasagna squares out of the freezer and heat about 1 inch of oil in a large skillet.  Dip the squares in the flour, then egg, and finally the bread crumbs, and gently place in the oil.  I used tongs as well as a fork to do this safely.  Fry about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Transfer to a towel lined serving platter or rack as I did, and keep covered with foil until you have finished.  Heat your marina on the stove or in the microwave.  Serve.

The Husband and I were each able to polish off three of these and we didn't need a fork or knife.  They're like little sandwiches which makes me think they would make fun appetizers.  I'd slice each square on the diagonal for this and I know it would be a hit.  And they are quite filling!
  

Cheeseburger Cups

I was on a roll with this cookbooks, and on a Friday night I made these mini burgers, or a new take on sliders.  Another great finger food.  I popped some frozen French fries in the oven as well so we truly had a greasy, fattening feast.  Emily and Mike stopped by and had them with us.  Madelyn helped by rolling out the bread.  You can make the filling ahead of time.  Emily snapped this picture before the condiments and pickles were added.  They are really cute and were SO good.

Cooking spray
Approximately 12 hamburger buns, split
1 T veggie oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 lb. ground beef
2 t garlic powder
Salt and pepper
12 squares sharp cheddar cheese
Ketchup, mustard and pickles for serving
2 T sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray your muffin tins with cooking spray.  Using a rolling pin, roll out the hamburger bun halves until thin and then gently press into each muffin cup.  

Prepare the filling.  In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil and sauté the onion until just soft.  Add the ground beef and cook approximately 8-10 minutes until it's no longer pink.  Drain and return to the skillet.  Add the seasonings and break apart the meat into small crumbles.  

Add the beef mixture to each muffing cup to fill halfway.  Top with the cheese slice and bake for approximately 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and drizzle ketchup and mustard over.  You can also offer the condiments on the side.  Top with the pickle and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.  

Even though there were five of us, I had a ton left over.  Store them in a plastic bag in the fridge and you can reheat them in the oven the next day.  And again, these would make fantastic appetizers.  No silverware needed!

Some of the recipes I have earmarked that might make you curious are: Breakfast Stuffed Baguette, Jalapeño Popper Crisps, BLT Sushi, Tamale Pie, Buffalo Chicken Chili, and Greek Grilled Cheese.  

You can follow the Delish website here.



Downtown Chicago 2/2019

The Husband has been suffering from some low back pain for a very long time.  He's the type of person who will avoid doctors at all costs and passes things off as, "I just have to live with it."  So I finally found the proper doctor at Northwestern Memorial in Chicago.  Long story short, he had an MRI which showed an infection near his sacrum.  His doctor called in the evening after TH had returned home from the MRI.  He needed to be admitted and started on antibiotics intravenously immediately.

We had to check into the ER as it was 'after hours'.  Unfortunately, his doctor neglected to clear him for admittance so it was first come, first serve.  If you've ever had the chance to be in an emergency room on a Saturday night in a big city, then you know how people come up with these reality and hospitals shows on TV.  The room wasn't large, we might have been in a particular section.  In the two hours I was there a fight broke out between two brothers, and police and security guards swarmed in seemingly out of nowhere.  There was an obese woman sitting in a chair across from me who was loudly talking to herself or some demon, all the while pulling her shirt up and down.  There was a poor man violently retching into a bag, and then a firefighter who wheeled in a young guy who was pretty banged up, followed by two Chicago Police officers who appeared to take his statement. I felt like I was watching Chicago Med, Fire, and PD at once.  Now--if Taylor Kinney had walked in... And just before I left, a couple dressed for a gala in a long gown and tuxedo respectively, came to the front desk arguing.  She was claiming he needed immediate medical attention and he was growling, "She thinks I had a stroke!"  "You did have a stroke, dear.  Now go sit down."

So The Husband stayed for two days and it was finally decided they should stop feeding him antibiotics until they found out what type of infection it was, where it originated, and how they could treat it.  We went back Wednesday and he had a needle biopsy for which he was sedated.  We are waiting for the results.  

I really have to give a shout out to Northwestern.  The Husband has had surgery there twice as well as other procedures.  It's located in a beautiful part of the city near the Gold Coast and university campus.  I've enjoyed good long walks, shopping, sitting on benches with a cup of coffee, and just soaking in the energy.  Inside the six connecting buildings of the hospital,  there are over 40 restaurants, coffee shops, gift stores, newsstands, bookstores, and florists.  

Once I kissed TH and sent him on his way to the twilight zone, I went downstairs to grab lunch.  I ordered the most delicious panini in a place called L'Appetito, and sat at a table in a common area with my latest book.  




I had started this book a week or so ago at the recommendation of Katie at The Preppy Empty Nester(I think).  Two chapters in I was thinking it might be another chic-lit book set in London, so many of which I laughed my way through years ago.  It wasn't moving very well though and I set it down for a few days, angry at myself for again paying for a dud.  But I picked it up again just before TH's test and it took an incredible turn for the better.  It has become a page turner and I'm actually typing this as fast as I can so I can wrap it up, hit Publish, and go hibernate in the den with this novel. 

So I'm sitting there at this table in the hospital, managing to eat my panini and drink my pop without spilling all over myself while I tuned out everything and read.  I snapped back to reality and people were still walking, laughing, talking, eating.  And then I looked at my watch.  The procedure was supposed to take an hour, more or less.  I had been sitting there for over 45 minutes.  Oh man, what a great wife I am.  I cleaned up my trash, grabbed my coat, purse, and prized book and hightailed it back up to the Outpatient Surgery waiting room.  They came for me five minutes later.  And there was The Husband in his silly gown with an even sillier smile on his face, "I was in twilight...I didn't feel a thing!  I love that twilight!"  I patted his hand and licked the crumbs off my bottom lip.  

As of yet we haven't heard the results.  Please say a prayer he won't have to undergo anything invasive.  I am really hoping he will be pain free soon.  His retirement is approaching and I want him to be able to do all the things he hasn't felt up to doing.  He's been working from home for the past two weeks and it's a good test run for when he no longer works.  We actually haven't killed each other and while I like to get out everyday to curb my cabin fever, he seems to like when I'm gone. ^^





So February is gone, physically and on my blog.  I had a birthday, not a milestone but that's approaching.  The Husband and girls gifted me with a huge makeup mirror that I had jokingly said I wanted.  It's all Hollywood-ish with adjustable lighting and silver sparkles.  But wait!  It has Bluetooth so I can listen to my music while I primp and paint.  And wait!  I can also make and take phone calls while I'm drawing my eyebrows on.  This thing can do anything except launch a space shuttle.  

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I'm keeping busy going out to do a little grocery shopping and then running out for more items when I come across another new recipe.  I hit up Target for my paper items, and to browse the book section even though I have an impressive collection of books I haven't started on my nightstand.  Abby and I went to pick up her wedding gown one evening, she looks stunning in it.  She'll go back closer to the wedding date to have the alterations.  Another evening Abby, Tom, SIL Megan and I went to the restaurant where we are having the bridal shower next month.  They have a beautiful room with an exposed brick wall, giant white trees with twinkle lights and gorgeous light fixtures.  We then had dinner and I have to say, I've never had a bad thing at this restaurant.  The chef is very innovative and everything is presented beautifully.  I really love the owner, a smart and sassy lady who bought this beer joint, cleaned it up, and turned it into one of the most popular places in the neighborhood.  

I need to start looking for a dress for the shower.  My son gave me a gift card to Nordstrom's for Christmas and I think I may start looking there.  I suppose I should start looking for that Mother of the Bride dress as well, but I'm still hoping I'll lose another fifteen pounds.  Don't we all?

One last thing.  I don't know if it has to do with Google+ going down the tubes, but where I once got your comments on the blog page and by email where I could respond to you, that's not happening.  I miss that.  So if you noticed I've been radio silent, please know that's why.  If there is a remedy for it, pass that on please.

Off I go...

Jane x


Monday, January 28, 2019

A WHOLE LOT OF COOKING, READING & WICKED WEATHER


Flowers For You


Hello friends!

Oh, it is so dreary here and I know so many of you across the States, in Canada, and across the pond are experiencing much the same.  Right now in Chicago it's terribly cold.  Today isn't so bad...30 degrees.  But we've all been preparing for the temps to go to -12 or less degrees tomorrow, and by Wednesday, as low as -27.  Overnight we had about 4 inches of snow, that hard packed sort of stuff.  I shoveled, and although I could feel my asthma rearing it's ugly head, my back felt okay.  I've been doing more strength exercises every day instead of cardio, so I was prepared today to go outdoors to get both. 

 In light of the polar vortex doing its thing in the Midwest tomorrow, I went to the grocery store last night thinking I'd go into the week really smart.  I thought that it being a Sunday night, 5:30 p.m., and 11 degrees, that I'd have the store to myself.  Nope.  My first clue was the full parking lot and I had to park waaaaaaaay in the back.  The store was also jam packed.  Sunday must be the day they restock because they were down to the bare nothings and aisles were blocked with dollies and employees.  I got my weekly shopping done and made a beeline for home.  Then I got to thinking a little while ago about freezing pipes and unforeseen furnace problems, so I went to a closer store and bought a few cases of bottled water and fire starter logs.  And now my back is killing me so I may just lay in front of the fireplace with a cold pack. :((

Some cold weather tips I've saved from our local weather people

Dress in layers with no uncovered skin
Avoid being outside if possible
Keep dog walking fast and quick, and if you have a fenced in yard, watch them so as to not forget and leave them out longer than a few minutes
Do not use space heaters when not home or overnight
Do not use space heaters with frayed cords
Keep a drip going with your faucets so they don't freeze
Close door to unused or rarely used rooms to conserve heat
Keep cabinet doors that house plumbing open so they get heat
Use rolled up towels or blankets on floors to insulate doors leading outside
Keep water well stocked




I have been sharing the progress and pictures of my den redo on Instagram.  So this is it, minus some accessories I'm searching out.  The motivation to make the change was spurred by the fabric of these very same chairs becoming terribly worn and discolored.  I have had such great success with this furniture store, I really do believe it was the type of fabric I had.  It seemed to pick up the dye from my clothing, mostly my favorite black knit yoga pants, even after a zillion washes.  In any case, my warranty was honored at half the original cost, not for stains, but for normal wear and tear. I was very happy with that.    

I stepped out of my comfort zone.  I really wanted to steer clear of neutrals for once in my life just so I could relax and not worry about dirt and stains and what have you. I chose this fabric and I was so ecstatic when they were delivered about two weeks ago.  I barely recognized them as my own chairs!  

So, the other changes I made (and you know you've gotta do the whole change-a-roo), I found this area rug on Wayfair.  Its made to look old and faded.  I had the table and lamp.  I was so undecided on a window treatment and I looked all over, Target being the last place, which is seriously odd for me.  I found this really cute tie up curtain and I thought it was perfect. It gives a bit of a feminine feel to the room.  A few days later I decided to order this  blue velvet tufted ottoman from Pier 1.  I have the same one at the lakehouse in another fabric.  It's called the Chas.  The deal going at the time was $40 off.  Not sure if it's still going on.  Its very well made and I have been loving the velvet furniture I'm seeing being mixed in with all types of decor.  How I love to mix it up.  The Husband doesn't 'get it' until he actually sees it.  Guess who is spending a lot of time in this room? :)



Look at the detail.  You have to love the nail head detail.  You probably know that my daughter Emily is a designer and managed a high-end furniture store for a good many years.  She was really impressed with the quality of the furniture at Pier 1, so I felt really good about this choice.  All of the other details are from shopping the House of Clutter.  Oh, please enlarge this picture.  My daughter, Abby, was happy to point out that my candle still has the price sticker on it.  



Speaking of Abby, I recently drove up to Wisconsin with her and Tom to do a tasting of the menu and wine list for the their wedding reception.  It was so incredibly fun, albeit for the snow and icy weather.  Funny how dreary, wintry, and snowy weather makes a photo look black and white.  In the distance you can see the pavilion they will be married in.  Closer to where I was taking this picture is the area where the cocktail hour will be.  There will be about 12 tall tables with white tablecloths and I'm in charge of doing something very simple to decorate them.  I'm thinking just a votive candle and small vase of simple flowers.  I'm going to look at Michael's or Hobby Lobby for vases.  Any other suggestions?  

The Husband and I are going a few days early and I'm hoping that I can help calm Abby's nerves, and we can do some some last minute things together or just sit by the pool.  And then we (TH and I) are staying on an extra few days just to unwind, shop, sit by the pool.  Did I say sit by the pool?  They have one indoors and out, a hot tub, exercise facility and of course, the lake.  Maybe we'll rent a boat.  



The Happy Couple 

Oh, to be together for ten years and then decide to get married.  Still, they will be twenty-eight when they wed in July.  That's true love and commitment.  




If you've never had local Wisconsin cheese, you're missing something great.  And the owners of this long time shop were so pleasant and friendly.  I confided to one of the owners that I had a recipe which called for a rather large section of Parmesan cheese rind to add flavor (and probably salt) to it's broth.  I  tentatively asked if he had any random rind hanging around.  He was a doll.  He found a piece with a nice bit of rind and didn't charge me the full weight.  Abby and Tom were looking at me like I had three heads...I bought all types of cheese and was in heaven.  Of course I love it for snacking, but I really like a good cheese in some of my recipes.  Abby thought I'd head towards the cheese curds and root beer. ;))



I am so happy to announce that I finally have my Pinterest working!  When you hover over a picture you will see the "Save" icon and you can then Pin it and save the recipe (or any photo) to your Pinterest page.  Unfortunately,  nothing can help my sad food photos.  I'll keep plugging along.  


Now on to some recipes.  I hope you are inspired to try the.  Please know these are my own recipes.  I just love to experiment.  




Roasted Veggies with Balsamic Honey glaze

8-10 Brussels sprouts, root end trimmed and cut lengthwise (include any leaves that come off)
2 carrots, cut thinly on the diagonal
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin in 1 inch long pieces
2 slices of uncooked bacon, roughly chopped
1 T olive oil
Small pinch of salt and pepper
1 T honey
1 T balsamic vinegar 

Slice up your veggies and bacon and toss with olive oil, salt & pepper in a large bowl.  Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  Mix together the Balsamic and honey.  Remove pan of veggies and drizzle the mixture over.  Return to oven for an additional 10 minutes.  


*Please note that this amount of vegetables will fill the baking pan.  This will make them steam and create a tender and juicy vegetable.  If you like your roasted veggies a little more browned and crunchy, use 2 pans and spread them further apart.  


I made these as a side dish with a flat iron steak.  I char the whole steak in a large, ovenproof skillet over high heat, 4 minutes per side.  I use 1 tablespoon of canola oil and season it beforehand.  I finish it off in a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes for rare.  Use a thermometer to cook it to your liking.  Slice into 4 pieces after letting it rest for a few minutes.   We are cutting carbs so I didn't include any other side dishes.  


Serves 4-6








Spicy Stuffed Peppers

These were fun to make, and I just made it up as I want along.  I had a bit of an uncooked piece of center cut pork roast.  I used 1/2 of a piece of chorizo sausage that usually comes in two lengths per 12 oz. package.  You can control the spice when using the Cajun spices and jalapeño peppers.  I've also been using farro as a go to for rice as it is slightly lower in carbs and all around healthy.

2 bell peppers, sliced in half and seeds removed
1 small piece of pork, about 1 1/3 cup,  chopped a little less than the size of a dice. 
3 oz. chorizo sausage, pulled apart into small pieces
1/2 cup farro
1/2 T canola oil
jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced  
1 poblano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 plum tomato, seeded and roughly chopped
1 c black beans
2-3 T Cajun seasonings
1 T oregano,
2 c Mexican cheese, divided
S&P to taste

Cook the farro in a good amount of water approximately 20 minutes until tender.  Drain  and set aside.  Meanwhile, sauté the pork cubes in the canola oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring and tossing occasionally.  Add the remaining ingredients including the farro, and 2/3 of the cheese.  Cook 5 minutes until well mixed and the flavors starting to meld.

Trim the bottom side of the bell pepper very thinly so that they will sit steady in the baking dish.  Spoon the sautéd mixture into the four pepper halves, pressing it in firmly.  Top with the last bit of cheese.  Place the pepper halves in the dish and pour a scant bit of water around them so that they will stream.  Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side.

I hope you give these recipes a try.  I'm still in a lighter cooking mode after all of the holiday and comfort foods over the past few weeks.  And remember, you can Pin them to try later.






I just wanted to mention that I finished this book after foregoing doing dishes, making the bed, and emptying the trash.  After reading so many books lately that just didn't float my boat, I just loved this page turner.  I see that this British author has written quite a few books and I'm tempted to order one (or four). Will I jinx it?  Has anyone read anything by Lisa Jewell?  And thanks to those of you who gave me book and Netflix recommendations.  

I'm doing a little refresh of the master bedroom. and we are also updating one of our bathrooms in the coming weeks so I'm excited to be sharing that.  

Stay warm and safe my friends!

Jane x

***Linking up with Maria at Tuesdays at our Home