Sunday, June 3, 2018

LAZY LAKE DAYS & GIVING AN OUTDATED TABLE A FRESH LOOK


Happy June!  After the heat we've been having, and storms, it almost feels like mid summer.  But things have leveled off here in the Midwest, at least the high temps, humidity, and rain.  The plants are lush and full, begging for a good trim, and it's finally tolerable weather to get some outdoor projects done.  

I feel much  like Milo (above).  The last 6 months spent in bed not doing much.  But I've healed so much in the past month.  I still have good and bad days.  My doctor was truly surprised when he saw me 2 weeks post surgery awhile back, he said most patients would come in with their walkers.  I can only take credit for having had a nice balance of resting and then moving slowly and carefully.  But I pushed myself in a lot of ways because I had to.  Who was going to let the dogs out or feed them?  I had to make my meals, take showers...everyday things, and that's a part of physical therapy in its own way.  




Isn't this pretty?  I found out about it 2 weeks before I came to the lake last weekend.  Our lawn guy hit a stone with his mower and while it only made a small hole in the window initially , it spider-webbed out.  Thankfully, it's a double pane window and only cracked on the outside.  I've had a few window companies out to look at it, and it appears we have a lot of issues with all 8 large windows, including the wood trim and caulking  around them.  This is a huge job and I have my work cut out for me in trying to find contractors this early in the season, almost all are booked up.  I'm so grateful that all the windows were deemed safe so that I can be here.  I have to say its disappointing after last year being absolutely worry free...finally!



The girls and their guys, and sweet little Madelyn, were here for Memorial Day weekend.  They were all a big help in getting the place spiffed up after months away, and it was like summer blossomed overnight.  We had beautiful weather, it was in the nineties but when you're on the boat or in the water that's not a terrible thing.  We have a covered patio with a big ceiling fan so we were very comfortable and truly spent the three days outdoors.  We lived on cold cuts, salads, grilled burgers and hot dogs, S'mores, breakfast muffins, exotic and fruity cocktails, lots of beer and bottles of water. There were bonfires each night, fireworks around the lake, sand all over the house, and wet bath and beach towels going 24/7 in the laundry room.

This year Madelyn, now 18 months old, has a much better idea of Grandma and Grandpa's place; the beach and water, her little pool, the boat, her bedroom, and our morning to night rituals.  Early in the morning I would wake up to hear her little feet thumping across the floor downstairs as she ran around enjoying all the open space.  When she spotted me coming downstairs, her face would light up and she'd run to me with her arms open wide.  Oh, she is such a huge joy in my life.  

I let her help me fill the bird feeders, it reminds me of Emily at this age; she would sit right smack in the middle of our vegetable garden and hand me seeds.  Madelyn just loved to sink her hands in the big container of wild bird seed and somewhat aim for the feeders.  I hung them up and as the evening went on, the birds began to arrive.  I would hold her, point, and explain how we had given them 'their dinner'.  Oh, I could see the wheels turning!  There's nothing like seeing life through the eyes of a child, or sharing your life with a child so their curiosity can be piqued.  I'm really looking forward to summers to come.





Lots of good things blooming now, a bit late due to the wacko weather.  These iris' grow off to the side of our house and woodpile.  They mean a lot to me as The Husband planted them as a surprise  over twenty years ago.  One spring I was out wandering around, saw them popping up and ran to get him.  Yes, he had planted the bulbs the previous fall just for me!  They come and go so quickly, usually before we have really gotten into a regular pattern of coming and going for the summer.  Its such a pleasant spot under a tree to stand and gaze at with my morning mug of coffee and the snooping hounds.  



This is a plant that is driving me crazy.  It's in my perennial bed and it didn't bloom last year.  I don't even see buds right now which would have had me think it might be a biennial.  This is actually one plant, and I have three.  On my muddy, torn, garden map, I think it's written 'dianthus', but I could be wrong.  If you have any idea, let me know.  I need my space!  The leaves are thick and quite tough.  The stems are thin and woody.  Interesting?  Please help me figure out what it is.  


I was so pleased to have this mirror hung back in January, I had been hanging on to it for over 2 years waiting to find someone to do it.  Weighing a hefty ninety pounds, no one was ready to jump in.  My lawn guy came to my rescue. 




This is a close up.  I love how it reflects areas of the room. 



 I was trying to pick up some of the black accents in the Great room, and I hung this art print of an old barn next to it, and I specifically chose a black frame.  This is not looking right to me.  It's a long wall and while the pieces look well together, they seem to be just slapped up there, not giving any warmth at all.  

I know it's going to take awhile for me to see this the way I want.  The mirror definitely stays (who's going to move it?!), but I actually think I may do some sort of arrangement where the print is, maybe something white and rustic.  



The first thing I set about doing was working on this oak table.  We bought the set over twenty years ago and The Husband stained and varnished it.  It's been a workhorse and is still in excellent condition, but it has a very 1990's look.   I added the end slipper chairs two years ago and always intended to paint the Windsor chairs.  I picked up some chalk paint and got to work.  I also looked at some chairs online, I thought a bit more of a mix would give it a spin.  More on that later.

I came back to the city late yesterday afternoon, it was a good ten days away.  After a houseful over Memorial Day weekend, it was really a slow and peaceful time; hot days flowed into some rain, and then cool temps came yesterday.  The house was sparkling clean so I packed up my duffel bag, grabbed the dogs and here we are.  Of course it smelled like dirty socks when I walked in.  The Husband doesn't think to open windows.  Still, he keeps things pretty neat.  I often surprise him when I come home, like yesterday.  I chipped away at cleaning up and sorting mail, in between lying down; the good old back isn't liking two straight hours in the car.  

I have flowers to plant, a patio to clean up, a vet appointment for both dogs, my two month appointment post surgery, and I need to line up quotes for work at the lakehouse.  But I'm taking it slow--honestly!

Happy June!

jane x

Friday, May 4, 2018

DECLUTTERING~EVEN THE LITTLE THINGS





Hello my friends.  Its good to be back doing something somewhat normal.  I started editing pictures, then I would get tired.  I'd start a draft, and then my back would ache.  Finally I realized everything would happen in it's own time. 

My surgery went pretty well.  The only glitch was the doctor found a nerve on the left side of my spine that was wrapped around something...it's all gibberish to me.  But I'm all fixed, screws and all.  It was a three day hospital stay.  I was in a ton of pain, but the way things work now you can just go home and be in pain.  I have to have someone with me all the time for the first two weeks.  My doctor and the hospital people were very firm about that.  Thankfully, The Husband's schedule is a little flexible, and Emily and Abby are a huge help.  If I'm alone at any time, I stay in bed.  

So that's the way it's been, a little less in pain every day, doing a few small things like wiping the counter tops, or organizing my jewelry.  Just piddly stuff that doesn't have me bending or twisting.  Surprisingly, some of these little jobs have a big impact.  Sometimes we fly by the seat of our pants, we 'get' the big picture, but sometimes its the small things we overlook and need our attention.

As someone who has been in and out of the hospital many times, mostly for asthma and related things, I know very well what its like to have a brain that is working overtime, and a body that's not keeping up.  Suddenly I'm thinking about that darn linen closet I never cleaned out.  Or the pile of quilts that need a good washing and fragrant dryer sheets before I store them until this winter.  Since a big part of my recovery is getting out of bed, walking, as well as sitting in a chair, I was able to do a "whole lot of everything and not much of anything".  Have you ever heard that?  My mom used to say it a lot.  



My living room was looking half lived in when I got home.  I would stare at Monster Mantel and fantasize about going at it with an axe.  "The meds made me do it!".  If it were just my choice, I would rip all the wood out, and just do a simple tile surround and rough wood shelf.  And on a small scale.  

I love watching Stories on Instagram.  It's hard to explain if you don't have an account, but the person can make a video of anything. I like the ones where it's a blogger sharing their home or DIY project.  One day I'd like to get the hang of this.  Annnnnyway...a blogger/Instagrammer was giving some design tips recently.  She had a little group of objects: two pots with faux greenery, a few old books, and some candlesticks.  Nothing new or recently bought.  The lesson was to learn to use what you had and not go overboard.  Keep it simple and easy.  I was curious as to what she'd do, and it was really cute.  So I took this approach with Monster Mantel.  I couldn't get downstairs to my hoarding room if I tried so I just went around the house and played on a theme of greenery.  I wanted to bring that glorious spring inside.   The mushroom print has hung in my kitchen forever.  I never thought of moving it but I am so darn proud of myself for being fearless/careless (of course you can see I set the bar high!).



This is the side table next to the chair The Husband usually sits in.  It looks pretty with some books and one of the million birds I have.  I love this little bird cage with the candle.  It was getting zero attention high up on a shelf in the living room.  

I feel like someone took my blinders off.  So many times I do a vignette and only move it when the season changes.  I'm feeling really positive about doing more when I'm mobile.



I never gave a lot of thought to the coffee table either.  Even if I had any thoughts, my ideas were slashed as  my little vignettes took up valuable real estate for those who had a plate of food, a snack. and a drink.  Anything over six inches high had to be moved as it blocked the TV when one was reclining.  Today I did a walk-thru of the house and found this beloved tray hiding in the guest room and just a few random pieces, and made an arrangement that can be moved around without a lot of effort to put back the way I like.  



My family has always teased me about my clutter, especially in the kitchen.  It really is the hub of the house.  I think of all the appliance I have on the counters.  The the mail and magazines that arrive in abundance everyday and multiply day by day if I don't have time to sort through it.  It's a dumping ground for books, papers, tote bags, baby toys, and everything under the sun that you plan to put in its proper place but keep putting off.  

I am really lucky that I have an expanse of counter space.  Today I worked slowly and carefully in taking away anything that did not encompass cooking or food storage.  The empty spaces took a while to get used to.  Ignore all that stuff on the island...I try to leave fruit out so The Husband doesn't miss it. 



It's a good feeling to have things in order, simplified.  My pain comes and goes, so I try to use the good hours to do something positive.  I have some five pound weights and I've been using them everyday for my arms.  I won't start physical therapy for a few weeks as I'm still healing.  One day at a time. 

I'd love to go to the lake but I've been trying to figure how Milo will be managed.  He is losing his balance and sliding on the wood floors.  Sometimes he's sprawled out like a turtle and we have to help him get up.  At the lake we have stairs and  he was really slipping and sliding when we were last there in January.  In the Orvis catalog I found stair treads with rubber backing, like you'd have in your bathroom.  This sounds perfect.  He's almost completely deaf, so if he wanders, he doesn't hear me call and I'm in no shape to chase after him.  Time will tell.  I realize that time here, in the backyard playing catch and enjoying the sun and fresh air is good enough for him.  I think as I approach the end with him, maybe I'm hanging on to the past when he was a playful little guy, running on the beach, then running upstairs exhausted from a full day outside, collapsing in his dog bed.  I'll figure it out.

Before I close, I want to thank everyone who sent well wishes and kept me in their prayers.  You are the best and I appreciate all of you.

Jane  x   

Sunday, April 22, 2018

UNTIL LATER...


Hi!  I just wanted to pop in really quick before I head off to bed.  My surgery is bright and early but I know I won't get a wink of sleep.  I can't have anything to eat or drink past midnight, so I'm actually hanging around the kitchen waiting to have this last sliver of cake from a brunch at Emily's today.  11:59...then I'm going to have to tough it out.

A few of you really sweet ladies (well, all of you are sweet), asked if you could send a card or note.  I think that is so, so nice.  In fact, it may give me something to do while I'm flat on my back.  So if you are so inclined, here is The Husband's office address:

Boudreau & Nisivaco
120 N. LaSalle St.  Suite 1250
Chicago, IL  60602
Attention: Jane Boudreau

I hope you all have a great week and I'll be back as soon as I can!!

Jane x

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

GREAT TARGET & KOHL'S FINDS, A CLEAN OUT YOUR FRIDGE RECIPE, AND THE USUAL RANDOMNESS



I am back a lot sooner than I thought and that makes me happy.  Actually, I started to put a post together in my mind last week.  It happened at night when it was too late to get some pics.  Sadly, a week or so goes by and the amount of stuff I want to share becomes a super long post.  I have had some readers write that my posts are too long to read.   I get that.  Everyone should grab what they identify with or want to chime in on.  A nice comment makes me happy.  

I hope all of you had a wonderful Easter.  Ours went really well; great company, good food, and Bellini's!  The Husband wished everyone a blessed day, and to keep in mind the true meaning of Easter.  We had a buffet dinner, so I didn't do anything fancy with the table.  I didn't do a lot of decorating either.  It is just enough to keep the house clean, and I had no desire to sort through my very unorganized hoarding room for spring decor.  Instead, I picked up three bunches of tulips, and made about five different arrangements which I placed here and there where they would be noticed.  A few candles as well.  I'm beginning to realize that a little goes a long way.




The day before Easter, I did poke my head into said hoarding room, and grabbed some bunnies and a few smaller items.  I played with the mantel a little, at least in a way that wouldn't require a huge effort to put away.  Convenience and time saving is the name of the game lately.  I really hope to get a little help to clean up the hoarding room after summer has gone by.  I use to have it so organized, but its easy to grab, and harder to put away neatly.   My dream is to have labeled bins stacked neatly by category.  Don't we all?  



I'm not sure if any of my past posts showed pics of my former curtains, I think they did.  They had a trailing sort of vine with aqua flowers.  I had no idea that this teenie weenie bit of color would drive me crazy.  They were lined, which I may not have noticed when I ordered them (and I have forgotten from where).  This lining made them very heavy and somewhat obnoxious once hung, and when I tried to open them, they kept closing.  The Husband loved them specifically for the lining, of course, as he thought it made the house warm in the winter.  True, but I felt claustrophobic.  I knew in my sneaky heart that I would never get away with replacing these curtains unless it was an extreme deal, which The Husbands lives for.  

I was in Target one day and saw these.  I loved them at first sight; a sort of paisley/floral.  Light weight cotton, nothing fancy...but oh so spot on just the way Target does it.  The color is described as gray, but I see more beige.  There were only two panels, so I tried to order more of them online.  Alas, discontinued.  I flew back to my local Target and enlisted the help of one of my good friends who works there.  He managed to locate the last six panels, alas, three at one store, three at another store.  Now, you might not know this, but I am the most lazy person you have ever met.  But I reeeeeeeealy wanted these curtains.  I headed off to the other Target, and when the manager came to the customer service counter with six packets, I think I heard to angels sing.  I didn't have to make the trip to the third Target 45 minutes away.


Close up.  So happy.  The Husband has barely noticed.  I was so excited from all of the sweaty running around, but they had been discontinued and marked down to $13.98 per panel.  Oh, heaven.  The planets were aligned.  :D  

So tell me, do you like?  I know I change curtains, shower curtains, and bedding way too often.  I have about ten different shower curtains, mostly from Target, but to my credit, I switch them around a lot between my two bathrooms.  No apologies. 

A not-so-frugal thing I did on Easter, was to forget to put my ham bone in the refrigerator, and it sat out all night (in the roaster pan).  Some of us were talking about the variety of dishes and soups we like to make with the bone.  I love Ham and Bean Soup, my mom always made it with the bone.  I also have a few casseroles, also using beans.  And The Husband loves Split Pea Soup, which grosses me out...but I'll make it.  Someday.  On another somewhat related note, I do not like jelly or jam.  Not because of the taste, it's the texture.  When my kids were in elementary school and I packed their lunches, they sometimes asked why there wasn't jelly on their peanut butter sandwiches like the other kids.  I always apologized that I had forgotten to buy it.  I'm surprised my how many years this worked until they reached the bologna stage.  Oh, I could finally let go of my evil lies.   



Saturday was Abigail Jane's twenty-seventh birthday.  I think back a lot about how easy my pregnancy and delivery was.  She was a tiny spring chick who never gave me a worry.  Just a really happy baby.  I had her when I was thirty-one, and there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted at least one more baby.  Sadly, it didn't happen.  So when I think back to that spring in 1991, and the anticipation of soon having her in my arms, I wish I had been more "there".  Pregnancy is not easy, but if I knew it was never going to happen for me again, I never would have moaned about swollen feet or feeling like I was suffocating.  And now, I don't think I could have asked for better.   

So Abby is our caboose, and she really makes us proud.  She's in her sixth year of teaching high school grammar, she and Tom are planning to get married in July of 2019 at a resort on Lake Geneva, in Wisconsin.  They are planning to move back down here to the Southside after living up north for a few years.  I am so, so relieved and happy to have her close by again.  I also think our area is safer from crime, but some could argue that point.  They will live with Tom's dad, about 3 minutes away from me, for about a year while they save for a house.  That will be interesting.  Ahem.


I've shared quiche recipes a few times before, I simply love how you can switch around and use up bits of cheese and veggies that you have on hand,  In this case I had leftover ham (of course, no ham bone to be seen), and veggies from a plate of crudités   In making quiche over the years, I've changed things up many times.  I always seem to be fighting the effects of excess liquid from either the veggies or dairy.  It can leave a puddle in the bottom of your pie plate, or a soggy crust if you go that route.  The last time I shared a quiche recipe with you, I recommended using a scant 1/4 cup of bread crumbs on the bottom of the pie plate to absorb the liquid.  Another tip I have from trying over and over to get a light and fluffy custard, less, not more eggs will help you achieve that.  I use no more than 4 or 5 eggs per 1 1/2 cup liquid (milk, half and half, or cream).  After that I mix things up, but I would recommend at least 1 1/2 cup of cheeses.  Following is the recipe I used for the quiche I made last week.

Baked Ham & Veggie Quiche (crust less)

6 eggs, beaten well
1 1/2 c half and half
Pinch of salt and nutmeg
1 T butter
1/2 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thin
2 c diced ham
1 1/2 to 2 c cheese, finely grated
1/2 c dried bread crumbs (optional)

Whisk together the eggs and cream, salt and nutmeg, and set aside.  Melt the butter in a small skillet and add the onion and zucchini.  Sauté until the onion becomes slightly transparent, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a 9 inch pie dish, sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly on the bottom.  Add the cooked veggies and ham.  Top with the cheese.  I used a variety; Muenster, Parmesan, and Swiss.  Give the egg mixture another good whisk and pour over the cheese and veggies.  A nice sprinkle of Parmesan over the surface makes it brown well and gives a nice crunch.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.  Let rest for 5 minutes before cutting.  Serves 4.


I treated myself to some flowers the other day.  There is a section in my grocery store that has various 'filler' flowers and some blooming stems, like pussy willow and forsythia.  The blue flowers were there for $5 a bunch.  I can't remember the name of them.  They bloom from the bottom up.  I arranged them with $5 carnations and I smile every time I look at my pretty vase.  

As I finish up this post, I have to tell you that I started it Saturday night!  Hahahahaha!  I give it a go and then I have to run and do something else, then I write for another half hour and have to rush out for something  In the middle, I'm sleeping a lot.  So--I'm going to try to cut to the chase on a few things before I hit publish.  I'll save you and me time.  :-D

1)  Stopped in Kohl's the other day and bought PJ's, undies and bras.  I always do this before a vacation.  This one is going to be at Christ Hospital.  

2)  From the 1,243 hours of sleep I've clocked since January, I know getting fit is the key to getting better.  When I let the dogs out and wait for them to poop and snoop, I do squats, lunges, and jumping jacks.  I swear, it's working.  Not only does my back hurt, everything else does, too.  

3)  As a wannabe scientist, because it sounds so cool when people ask what you do, I was checking into Dead Sea Salts and was a-m-a-z-e-d by all of the benefits one can get by soaking in a bath with them.  It soothes the skin, helps with your muscle aches and pains, and detoxes your body.  I bought a huge bag from Amazon and you can find me at 8:00 p.m. every night in my sub par spa, soaking away.  

4)  While I wile away my horizontal hours, I love watching You Tube makeup videos.  Then I shop the Sephora website, positive I can create the look in the video, and spend so much money that I often accumulate my 500 points for a gift.  Not that I need anything else, but it still makes me feel like I got a burning deal and want to keep my business there.  I mean...all that stuff, most of which I tuck away in a bedroom junk drawer and totally forget about.  I'm working on a post about makeup products, the right and wrong reasons to purchase them.

5)  In keeping with the makeup buying binges, magazines a not harmless from my mad ways.  Flipping through Vogue last month, the January issue I might add, I fell in love with a perfume sample.  You know, the page with the model in a white linen dress, sprawled over a wild horse somewhere in the Sierra Nevada.  The page is folded, but you've already smelled the scent of the perfume before you've left the drugstore with said magazine.  Short story, I fell in love.  With the perfume.  Not the horse, nor the model.  And I now own it.  I could buy 45 copies of Vogue for what I paid for this perfume.  Step away from the magazines. 

6)  Currently on my tube:  The Zoo on Animal Planet.  I can't watch one of these shows without crying.  Especially the other night when an aardvark had an infected tooth removed.  Hiccup.  

7)  I was at Target the other day (SuRpRiSe), and bought an oversized, white faux fur throw for my bed.  Between that and my heating pad, Layla only gets down to eat and piddle.  

I'll be back soon~

Jane x



Tuesday, March 27, 2018

SPRING INTO SOME RECIPES AND TABLESCAPES



Spring is here, yay!  The last time I posted it was February, cold and miserable.  Then again its the same way today.  Keeps us on our toes, I guess. My grocery store has a really nice, large area with fresh flowers and plants.  There's something for every one's wallet.  I personally like the 3 for $12 deals.  I can make vases for every room in the house.  And that fragrance...I was really tempted to get a pot of the purple/blue mums, aren't they gorgeous?  Sun or rain, my home feels light and happy.  And that colorful background?  That's boxes of cereal.  

I have little sprouts of daffodils poking up outside, as well as day lilies.  I think they got a little confused when we had some temps in the 50's a few weeks ago.  Otherwise, it's quite bare in the backyard.  I have a lawn service, and they were here recently to do a spring clean-up.  They raked up all of the old grass and dead leaves, and aerated the lawn.  So now its just about waiting for May to roll around, and then we can really start to get our hands dirty.  I'm going to be really careful this year to not overdo the pots of flowers.  It was hard to keep everything watered and healthy while running back and forth from here to the lakehouse.  I think if I keep a nice clean color scheme that flows around the patio and garden beds, I'll be okay.  I'm so excited.



These are the yellow and white tulips I chose from that menagerie of beautiful flowers at the store.  Some fresh flowers, and a handful of my spring decor is all I'm going to have to spruce up the house.   I still feeling like a minimalist.  I've been avoiding my usual haunts; TJ Maxx, Marshall's, HomeGoods.  I keep telling myself that I don't need anything.  My mom always said, if you want to save money, stay out of the stores.  The truth is, these particular stores are so affordable, and it's hard to say no to something we find and fall in love with.  I have to laugh now though, at some of the things I've come home with over the years.  Endless dishes, you know...have to keep up with those tablescapes.  And don't forget napkins in every color and pattern.  Signs...a sign for every room with every sentiment possible.  Kitchen gadgets.  Crates and baskets of all kind.  

Okay, I'm not shaming anyone.  There have been times I've needed something, and I knew just where to go.  A certain size casserole dish.  Bath rugs and a few extra quality towels.  Toss pillows.  Wine glasses.  Olive oil.  Candles.  Yes!  Candles for sure.  Can you share anything you've found at one of these stores that makes it worth walking in and out with a smile?


Some things are just too hard to pass up.  I'm thinking I may move on to lambs.  Just kidding.



All of us here in Chicago have a lot to shout about with Loyola making the Final Four.  Hooray for March Madness!  I'm not much of a college basketball person, but I do like winners.  Incidentally, My niece is a junior at Villanova, and a cheerleader.  There she is above, the cute little redhead.  You rock it, Lizzie!


It's always fun to have family over for a weeknight dinner without a lot of planning.  I had picked up some shrimp and scallops on sale, and knew it all was too much for The Husband and I.  I invited Emily, Mike and Madelyn, and then started searching for something delicious but easy on Pinterest.

The main dish was pasta and sea scallops in a white sauce.  It was simple, easy, and really tasty.  The salad I chose however, was to absolutely die for.  It was a recipe for an entree, but I modified it for a starter salad.  

I changed the recipe tremendously based on what I thought would yield much more flavor, and to eliminate some unnecessary steps.  This is my version.

Pan Seared Scallops with Bacon and Spinach

2 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled.
1 T reserved bacon drippings
2 large shallots, diced small
2 cloves garlic, diced small
1/2 lb. fresh scallops, coarsely chopped
1 12 oz. package of fresh baby spinach
Juice of 1 lemon half
1 T olive oil combined with 1/4 t balsamic vinegar


In a large skillet heat the reserved bacon drippings.  Sauté the shallots for about 2 minutes over low heat. Do not cook until they are wilted, you want a little crunch.  Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.  Add the scallops and stir until cooked through, about 2 minutes.  Remove mixture from pan and keep covered and warm.  Add 1/2 of the spinach to the pan and add the lemon juice.  Toss until barely wilted.  Add the remaining spinach and the balsamic mixture.  Toss gently until heated through but not wilted---again you want a slight crunch.  Remove the spinach to 4 salad plates.  Top with the warm bacon bits, shallots, and scallops.  Garnish with a lemon wedge if desired.  
Serves 4

I think this makes for a nice spring salad, light for lunch, or doable for dinner.  I had a loaf of good artisan bread, and we used globs of butter instead of the traditional Italian olive oil and parmesan mixture for dipping.  A contrast to the two recipes.  



I was going through some of my dishes for Easter dinner and came across these cute plates.  I found them at Pier 1 years ago ((I want to mention that on Instagram, I incorrectly wrote that I bought them at Williams Sonoma).  Why I only bought four...Anyway, I used them with my everyday dishes, my trusty tulips, tea lights candles, and napkin rings, also from Pier 1.  I've had the same Magnolia Heart And Home runner on my table for awhile, so I just added black place mats.  I'm lazy like that.  It was fun to do though.  Spur of the moment and no fussing.  It's about time I used all that stuff I've bought over the years.  ;-D



Playing with my dishes



When the little grandkidlets are old enough to eat off something other than plastic, maybe they will come to love these dishes in the spring.  



Sooooooo Big



Emily and Mike need a night out once in awhile, and I am more than happy to have Madelyn.  So here we were on Saturday night.  She had dinner with The Husband and I, then ice cream for dessert.  I got her ready for bed, and then she picked out some toys to play with in the den.  She has been gravitating to these oversized crayons.  She had a coloring book, but when I gave her this blank notebook, she really went to town.  We watched a little Sesame Street, and she soon fell asleep in my arms.  The happy couple had a great night out, and I was loving every minute with her.  

I'm looking forward to Easter.  Making a ham is a no brainer.  Emily is making her famous Mac and Cheese, and I'm delegating the canned corn to Abby.  It will be great to see the extended family that we last saw at Christmas.

I'm still on a reading frenzy.  I followed up The Woman in The Window with The Flight Attendant.  Another Murder/Suspense novel.  They are hard to put down.  And I ordered The Light We Lost after a few Instagram ladies recommended it.  It's supposed to be a tear jerker.  Its about time after all this nightmarish, bloody stuff.  

And I have bad news.  We can talk more about it later.  I'm have back surgery near the end of April.  There is no way around it after not having a result from the epidural.  All of my discs in my lower back have collapsed and I have bone rubbing on bone, as well as nerve issues.  The vertebrae levels will be fused together and held with screws. 

 To say I'm afraid is to put it mildly.  I'm mostly worried about recovering.  If I want to have any semblance of normalcy, I have to put in the work.  My doctor said if I keep moving, I may be able to drive in ten days.  If I do the physical therapy, I may be able to walk a mile after six weeks. Anyway, this is just the way its going to be.  I'm really praying I'll be out of this pain quickly.  I hope I'm not whining, but I'm in serious pain 24 hours a day.  The hardest things to do are to sit in an upright chair, like in my kitchen, or at the doctor or vet or something.  I absolutely go, "Ouch, ouch, ouch," when I have to roll over in bed.  The Husband has learned to sleep through this, thankfully.  It's like my upper body can roll, but the lower half refuses to without a sad fight.  Ha!  I'm a tosser and turner, so that doesn't help.  I do not like to take the pain pills.  They give me a headache.  But a lot of days, about 4:00 when I've just had it, I take one, lie down on my bed with a heating pad and the dogs, and for about four hours I'm drifting on a cloud.  My body, not my head!

Okay.  Please let's talk about the books you are reading, what you like to buy at those addictive shops like Marshall's, what your Easter plans are.  Oh---I just got Netflix.  Can you recommend a good series?

Take care and Easter Blessings!

Jane x



Sunday, March 4, 2018

TIDES COMING IN, TIDES GOING OUT


Not The Only Tired One


Hi everyone!  It's me.  Thanks so much for your encouragement (and patience) as I get my life in order.  Lol. I also appreciate all of your supportive comments on Instagram.  I don't want to dwell on the health problems I've been having, yet I want to always be honest about what's going on over here.

The virus, which would ebb and flow, seems to have finally kissed me goodbye.  I get up with the urge to start the day,  I'm rarely tired, and I'm starting to do some of the organizing and spring cleaning that I would have started weeks ago if I had felt better.  Why do we beat ourselves up over standards we often set for ourselves, sometimes just to make others happy? 

 I think I've learned a lot about myself since this past ordeal with the virus and my back issues.  I simply stopped worrying about everything but my own health.  Many of you had said, as well as my own family and friends, just take care of yourself.  I listened.  I slept.  I changed into a fresh pair of pajamas's everyday.  Dishes piled in the sink.  We ran out of essentials.  It was interesting to see that The Husband didn't really notice the chaotic mess the house was.  He did notice there was usually not dinner waiting, and that we weren't stocked up on Doritos and Diet Coke.  After some grumbling, he'd go to the store.  I don't hold that against him, these are his creature comforts and it was an upset for him.  The main thing is that I learned to ask for help.  I've gotten so used to carrying the load that I forgot I deserved some attention.  I'm not patting myself on the back here, so much is about having a good revelation and hoping that you, too, know that you deserve to be taken care of.

Long story short, I made it through the virus.  I know it will hit again.  All I can do is get healthy, build up my immune system, and avoid others who are sick.  My back problems are another story; I have four herniated discs on each side of my spine, and a multitude of other degenerative diseases.  We are on our last choice of treatment before I have to have a spinal fusion, as in surgery to screw my vertebrae back together.  This past Thursday I had an epidural injection into the most inflamed disc.  I was so surprised that it was treated as a surgical procedure; gown, cap, wheeled into a surgical room, my spine on a screen showing what a complete mess was, and the four inch needle working it's way in.  Sixty seconds felt like forever.

Hallelujah, I'm feeling better with each day.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I have a whole new appreciation for the wonders our backs perform every second, every minute of every day.  

Geesh, that was looooooong, but I know many of you have had these problems and some, this procedure.  Feel free to share in your comments.



Latest Excellent Read

When I wasn't sleeping over the past four weeks, I was reading.  I was perusing my New Yorker magazine one day, and came across a book review by Joyce Carol Oates, one of my favorite authors.  A positive review by her is as good as it gets.  If you like drama and suspense, this is a book for you.  It's a new release and definitely a page turner.  At 400+ pages, you can imagine the twists and turns.  I'm a quarter of the way through it, and scramble for time to sit and read.  Check out Amazon for the description, reviews, and best price.



Good Friends:  Lake Geneva, WI., 2018

I mentioned we would be meeting up with my longtime blogger friend Cindy, and her husband Dan, in Lake Geneva, WI.  It's always good to see them, friends for ten years, but only seeing each other once a year.  When we both had started blogs ten thousand years ago, I suggested to her that we get together, I mean Wisconsin is just above Illinois, as the crow flies.  She thought it was a pretty cool idea, since Black River Falls is only five hours away.  Duh.  Still, we met in Galena, Illinois, which I think was pretty much an even three hour drive, total strangers, and we clicked.  


First meet: Galena, IL., 2010  (Look at my baaaaaaangs!)

As the years have gone on, we have met up in Galena and Lake Geneva twice.  Cedarburg, WI., (near Milwaukee) a few times.  Madison, Wisconsin.  And they drove six hours (!!!) to our lakehouse in Michigan, one summer. 

This recent meet up last weekend was fun of course, and Cindy was a super supportive friend to me.  It was before my epidural and because I knew we would be having cocktails, I didn't take any medication.  It was raining and sleeting and downright cold.  But she'd patiently wait while I leaned against a light post, or stop inside a shop to gain my momentum. 

 I can't tell you enough how I've learned that life can take twists and turns that lead to wonderful relationships and great times if you are just open to taking that chance.  We are already talking about them coming to the lakehouse this summer, hopefully for an extra few days to explore some of the towns along the lake, and hanging out on our beach or boat rides.  There is so much to do and I always wish; after emails, texts and phone calls, that we lived closer.  





Obvi:  Hogs & Kisses, The Bar Where Everyone Knows You Are From Chicago When You Order A Moscow Mule



Our Mad Mad

She gets beyond cuter everyday.  When I'm out and about, I check if Emily is home as an excuse to go play with this little darling.  They often stop by as well.  I have her to myself for spurts of time when Emily goes for a manicure, her hair appointments, and evenings out.  They come (including hubby Mike), for visits or dinner, and it's just so amazing to me how she knows where the toys are, where we let the dogs out, where the televisions are at, and where I keep the snacks and baby cups, plates, etc.  She is infatuated with our bedroom.  We have a huge four poster with steps to get up.  I tell her, "Let's go dance on the bed!" and she makes a beeline for the room.  And we jump, dance, and pretend we are taking a nap.  

I really do miss those days with my kids when they were little; playing fantasy and silly, exploring all things new.  Time goes on, and the days of potty training, the first day of school, washing baseball uniforms, watching baseball and basketball from bleachers, calling them in for dinner, giving them buzz haircuts on the front porch, and of course, complaining about their messy rooms...it's all hazy sometimes, isn't it?  We had a huge role, not shared or shadowed by anyone else, and now so many of us are older grandmothers, we might be relieved and ready to pass the baton.  It can be exhausting, even to put all the toys away and reassemble your house after the grandkidlets are gone.  But we do it.  We are the pros.  We set the standards and we should revel in that time and this time of love and dedication.  



No Better Baby Model On A City Street

When Madelyn was born, Emily had a huge tug of the heart and wanted to be at home.  She was offered a job with The Husband, where she could work from home and only go into the office once a week.  It was a win/win for all involved.  She is an exceptional legal assistant; smart, organized, efficient, and she can stand up to her father!  But she has never lost her creative drive.  With a bachelors degree in interior design, she still does home consultations, but she has really zoned in on baby fashion.  I think she could have her own baby boutique.  She's a thrifty shopper, and belongs to a buy and sell FB group.  And that Madelyn, she's a natural model.  



Photo:  Source unknown


French Onion Dip Sandwiches


I mentioned that I bought myself a new and updated slow cooker.  I've finally gave it a test run yesterday after I couldn't stand to see it taking up space on my counter.  I'm not sure if you've had a good French dip; tender slices of thin cut or shredded beef, cooked in a salty, onion au jus and served on  crusty french roll   A side of the hot au jus is served on the side for dipping and dripping.  

I take no credit for the above photo.  Give credit to Fox Valley Foodie.  The recipe however, was definitely dabbled with, and I am so happy to say that this is a winner.  This is how I did it:

4 lbs. beef chuck, round, or rump cut roast 
1 10 oz. can of French Onion Soup (Campbell's)
1 10 oz. can of Beef Consume Soup (Campbell's
12 oz. Guinness Beer
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1-2 T dried oregano
1 T dried garlic powder
2 cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Add roast to preheated crock pot.  Pour the cans of soup over as well as the beer.  (I only had Bud Lite and that was just fine!).  Add the remaining ingredients, cover and set the timer for 4 hours if you want to get it going in short order, or 8 hours at leisure.  At four hours, shred the meat right in the pot, or remove to a cutting board and slice as thin as possible.  Taste the au jus for flavor and adjust.  The oregano is such a good addition, make sure you have that flavor going.  Add the meat back to the pot and continue to cook.  Meanwhile, toast French bread rolls in your oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes until just crunchy.  Serve the beef on the rolls with a generous amount of the sauce.  Have bowls of au jus around for dipping.  I picked up some french fries from a local restaurant carry out because I just couldn't match that addition.

You will have plenty of gravy left.  I refrigerated mine and will buy some sliced beef at the deli later in the week to heat up in this tasty as jus.  You can also freeze it.  I think you can add it to stews and soups as well, it has a bold, salty flavor.  


*****




I have the pleasure of stopping into Target a bit more often, as that's where Em buys her diapers, and I can't miss an opportunity.  I, myself, have been slowly adding more toys to my arsenal, as these kiddos are growing so fast.  And I can't pass up the shoes or books, or cosmetics...I finally did see something I liked from Joanna Gaines' line, Magnolia Market.  I picked up this runner the other day.  Very simple, well made, with little black X's.  It seems I'm gravitating to black a little more since I added some accents here and there in the Great room at the lake.  I think it actually calls attention to your whites and more neutral colors.  I like this tabletop which will take me right up to Easter.  In fact, the next time I trudge downstairs with the last of my Christmas pillows and throws (yes, I found some items in Abby's room),  I may bring up some bunnies.  

I've done a lot more cooking in recent days and I'd love to share the recipes, maybe later, as this post is pushing long.  Last night I made crab cakes, super simple and quick; and tonight, chicken and dumplings.  When I'm stressed, I cook.  The more stressed, the more elaborate the recipe.  Stress over the unresolved little unravellings in my life can send me straight to the kitchen.  I do my best thinking there.  My problems, like everyone else, can make me reach a point where I'm are wasting my time and energy.  I'd rather put it into cooking, reading, writing, spending time with my husband, kids, friends, and huge 'ol family.    



---I've been snuggling up in my little den, watching, as always, Chicago Fire and PD.  My cousin (Hey Joanne!), had a good part of the cast and the firetrucks down her street, just blocks away from me, and posed with several of the actors.  They are soooo cool, not to mention handsome. There were some people in Chi town who didn't like the intrusion of streets blocked off with filming, but the number of people given paid jobs as extras totally shut down those voices.  And by the way, Happy 181st Birthday to Chicago!!!

---I'm still watching Blindspot, the Housewives dramas, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Property Brothers, and I recently hopped back over to the Food Network for Beat Bobby Flay and The Kitchen.  The last two are entertaining for foodies and cooks. 

---I'm looking forward to the return of Timeless and Imposters.  I also started to get into I.D., when I'm not home alone, and I'm taking The Voice with a grain of salt.  I don't watch many movies.  I have never been a huge fan of television at all, I prefer to read, simple as that.  I like a little mindless time, as I write and spend time online at the same time.  

---I finished off a few light books by Jenny Colgan.  She has a series about a young woman in England, heading off to an island after a bad break-up and job loss.  Only connected to land by a causeway which disappears when the tide comes in, she hesitantly starts life over in a tiny fishing town.  She finds peace and new friends, as well as a little bad luck when she opens a bake shop.  Again, light, but I love a novel set in a place I'd love to visit.  Jojo Moyes also has a new book out with a novelette and some short stories,  now sitting on my nightstand.

---My share of magazines:  Vanity Fair, People, Allure, Marie Claire, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Country Living, and Better Homes & Gardens.  I get all these by subscription for a song.  I just wish I could keep up with them.  Skim or let pile up until the articles are no longer relevant.  

---Downsizing my closet but not resisting shoes at Sole Society, Boheme, Jane, and 6PM (all websites).  Looking forward to getting out of the warm boots and the rain boots!

---New Beggin' Strip Turkey treats for the hounds, which are healthier and super tasty.  Did I mention Milo is in remission?  I did on IG, and I mix that up sometimes.  We are so beyond happy.  He's acting peppy, has a ferocious appetite, and loves his crazy concoction  of cooked hamburger, peas and carrots.  I give him (and Layla, of course) this to disguise his meds.  He deserves it though.  These are the happiest times of our lives together.  Give your dog or kitty a big long hug today.  Every minute counts in their short lives.  

---New to me, Kind bars.  I'm grabbing the Nut & Spice variety, as they have about 4 grams of carbs each.  Super tasty flavors like coconut and chocolate; vanilla, caramel and almond, and many more depending on what you are focused on with your diet or taste.  Finally, something I can grab when I'm in my car or craving a midnight sweet.  With my lack of activity since early January, I was surprised to see I had actually lost a few pounds.  Just no appetite, and hours before I had the energy to make soup, salad or leftovers.  My primary physician had spoke with me about the value in letting your body go through a fasting period during which you use up stored fat as opposed to feeding your body more calories, fat and carbs.  It's an interesting concept, but there are always new and different weight loss methods thrown at us.  I research but also take it all with a grain of salt.  I do feel it's working a little for me, I'm not a huge eater until hours after waking up, and that leaves a good 15 hour window of fasting.  

So, off I go.  Another week of busyness ahead and I'm looking forward to it.  I have the wind at my back, and I'm letting go of everything that's been making me spin my wheels in life---as in forever.  I've learned over the past two months of trials and tribulations, you will find comfort in your husband, who might fumble around in the kitchen.  Your kids may be caught up in their own adult lives, and sometimes overlook that you are struggling, but have faith, you are more important to them than you think.  You deserve love and all the best when that is what you give.  My last word on blaming and feeling sorry for myself.  On to being proactive and hanging in there with the support of the ones I love.  The tide is out.

See ya soon!

Jane x