Sunday, December 5, 2021

THANKSGIVING MISHAPS & INCREDIBLY GREAT RECIPES TO MAKE UP FOR IT


Hello everyone!  I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.  I think most of using us were simply grateful to be with family and friends again.  But I don't doubt we still need to be careful.  Someone near and dear to us came down with Covid or the Delta variant even after having both vaccines and the booster.  He had spent some time with an unvaccinated person and he became very ill.  I think we can't yet become comfortable.  

My kids, grands, and the whole gang have a ritual of playing football every Thanksgiving morning.  This has been going on for longer than I can remember and they always take a group photo.  I'm never there unfortunately (πŸ˜‰) as I'm busy stuffing the turkey and 10:00 is an ungodly hour for me.  Also, I don't know one wit about football in spite of being a pom pom girl in high school, and that was all about shaking my bootie in a short skirt as opposed to watching the game.  

I always say that cooking a turkey is a no-brainer but this year was a near disaster.  This turkey did not have a pop up thingie to indicate it was done, so I used my meat thermometer.  It read 160 degrees but I didn't check the easy movement of the legs and wings which also show it's perfectly done.  It was just as we were carving and ready to serve when this was discovered, so my only choice was to microwave several of the parts one at a time so dinner was super late.  This has never happened...I've overcooked but never undercooked.  I was devastated.  Since dinner was late, most of the guests had consumed a good amount of cocktails and hors d' oeuvres, and I could have had a live turkey trotting about the kitchen and they wouldn't have noticed.
  


This is a true classic.  Two year-old Lucy must have been terribly hungry.  Look at her go!


I made my tried and true vanilla bark.  There is nothing easier to make and is always a hit with the kids.  I used Chex Party Mix for the "salty" which made it so much easier and cost effective.  I also made a pie with a recipe I had never tried.  It called for caramel sauce and it was my first time making it.  I think I overcooked it (unlike my turkey) and it had a bitter taste.  It definitely wasn't a hit.   






(Photo credit unknown) 

I meant to make these for Thanksgiving but it was just one of my lofty ideas and I didn't.  I make these candied nuts every Christmas.  They are perfect in small bowls scattered here and there during cocktail hour at holiday parties and I also make gift boxes for family and friends with all sorts of sweets.  Little bags of candied nuts are always appreciated.  You can find all sorts of nuts at a good price at Sam's Club and Costco.  I tweaked this recipe a bit so no link.  As Christmas approaches I thought I'd share this recipe.

1 egg white
1 t vanilla extract
3 c nuts such as cashews, pecans, walnuts, almonds...
1/2 c brown sugar
2 t ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Spray a baking pan with cooking spray.  In a medium size bowl, whisk the egg white and vanilla until frothy.  Add the nuts and toss until coated.

In a small bowl mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Add to the nut mixture and toss well.  Spread evenly on the baking sheet.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, stirring and tossing every 15 minutes.  Cool and store in an airtight container.  

Obviously I double and triple the ingredients as I gift them.  Make some people happy and do the same!  I never knew it was the egg white that held everything together.  So with said egg whites, make your own version.


(Photo courtesy Smitten Kitchen) 


Creamy Cheese Spread with Warm Candied Bacon & Dates

This is a winner of an appetizer.  Doesn't it look delicious?  I can't take credit for the photo and it doesn't have to look this purdy, but the flavors are insane. And dates are in season!  This was a delicious appetizer and I was happy to try something different... I'm finding charcuterie boards getting a little old.  This does have cheese but with a nice twist.  You can serve some fruit alongside. With no further ado:

6-8 slices bacon, chopped
2 T chopped fresh rosemary*
1 t brown sugar
1/3 c plus 1 t honey
1/2 t cayenne pepper--more or less as your preference
12 plump dates, pitted and torn
1 10 oz. log creamy goat cheese
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 T olive oil
sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On the baking sheet toss together the bacon, 1 T rosemary, the brown sugar, 1 t honey, and the cayenne.  Arrange in an even layer.  Scatter the torn dates around.  Bake until the bacon is crisping, about 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the goat cheese, cream cheese, olive oil, and a pinch of salt in a food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy.  This mixture can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.  Bring to room temp before serving.

Spoon the cheese mixture into a serving bowl and top with the warm bacon and date.  Drizzle over a little of the honey and rosemary.  Serve with thin toasted bread rounds or crackers.  This serves 8 so you may want to double the recipe.   
*You can find fresh rosemary in the produce section of most grocery stores if you don't/can't grow it.  Like me.

Off I go.  I have a sweet, skinny Balsam Fir sitting in my living room and I'm waiting for the branches to drop before I string the lights.  Every available surface as well as the floor is filled with bins of my Christmas decorations.  My shopping is done and piled up in the guest room.  I love the ritual of wrapping while a Christmas movie is on. Maybe a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of chilled wine.  But first--the tree has to be finished and everything festive in its place. Call me strange but I have sixty-one years of experience of that.😊

Sending love and good wishes for a wonderful holiday season.  I'll be back soon!

Jane x  

Sunday, November 7, 2021

A BABY SHOWER, NEW HOMES, & THANKSGIVING RECIPES

 



Here I am again!  Getting tired of seeing me?  I want to say that I so appreciate your comments, especially in my last post, and your condolences on the passing of my brother.  It is such an empty space in my heart.  The realization hits me at the random hour, and I just tear up.  His sweet, wonderful wife has it much harder, as well as his daughters and grandchildren.  I'm feeling a little helpless that they are down near Louisville and not closer.  It's just a terrible, sudden loss.  Again, thank you.❤️



Abigail's baby shower was last Saturday.  It was at the same event room at Deja Brew as was her wedding shower.  The room is gorgeous on it's own, and the owner of the restaurant/pub is so dear.  Dottie was in the family restaurant business most of her life and she bought this space and turned it into a vibrant restaurant with excellent food and an exceptionally great staff.  I say this because I very much so support local businesses, and businesses owned by women, who have been successful in bringing their dreams, goals, and plans into fruition.  Applause!

My daughter, Emily, my daughter in law, Deirdre, and myself all equally pulled this off together.  My humble part was making the table decor.  I love flower arranging and although I'm nowhere near the creativity and expertise of a professional, I love doing it (we also saved a lot of money).  So I used the same vases from the last shower and this is what I came up with; coral, cream, and white roses, with a lot of green fillers and baby's breath.  It was a rainy, gloomy day so the colors and tea light candles made everything warm and sparkly.  Emily created the gorgeous balloon arrangement and chose the little interactive games we played like: The Price Is Right, where we had to estimate the price of diapers, bibs, formula, etc.  Can you believe I tied for winner with Abby's sister in law who has three young kiddos?  My Black Belt in shopping always comes in handy!  Deidre contributed the favors of natural soaps with a cute tag that said, "Shower Abby With Love".


And then the baby daddy showed up to raise a toast, mingle with us ladies, and open gifts with Abigail.  Aren't they the cutest?  



In other happy news, I mentioned in my last post that my daughter, Emily, and hubby Mike, bought a house just three blocks from us.  And here it is on moving day Friday. Madelyn and Lucy are loving every bit of it.  It was a bittersweet time leaving their first home which they bought when first married, and to which they brought their babies home.  And this particular block was home to Nana and Papa, where I first brought Emily to when she was a newborn, and many, many years as she and my other children grew.  But this new house!  It's large and updated and Emily is so ready to give it even more of her designer touches.  I'll get her permission to post pics once they've settled in. πŸ‘ 



My son Jeff, and his wife, Deirdre, recently sold their second home on Lake Michigan for another which is right on the shoreline. This is the road view. 



And as you can see, the Big Lake is right there in their backyard and it has a pool as well.  What a wonderful place to escape to year round! Deirdre's parent live just jog away, and they are about one hour from Chicago and thirty minutes from our cottage. Wow, I am feeling so blessed to have my kids all around us.  We couldn't ask for more.




 I want to share this insanely simple recipe for Pumpkin Spice muffins (if you aren't sick of pumpkin spice everything!).  I used a store bought box of pumpkin shortbread and did nothing out of the ordinary with it, just a whipped egg white and half teaspoon of vanilla.  But  I made a cream cheese frosting that I played with for many cupcakes I've made. So here is just that topping of the muffins I made and want to share.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 t flour
2 T sugar
1 t milk
1/2 c slivered almonds, toasted
Cinnamon, optional

Combine all of the ingredients but for the almonds in a small bowl.  Once the muffins are out of the oven and almost cooled (not hot or the topping will thin), add a dollop of the mixture over the top.  If the cream cheese becomes runny, pop it in the  fridge to firm it up.  You can also pipe this on but I'm not talented in that department!  Top with a small spoonful of almonds and a little dusting of cinnamon.  

  


Cranberry Cheese Log

This is again a simple but outstanding recipe for a festive party at this time of year.  Not much time to make but with all the great flavors.  I was inspired by this blogger, and this is her photo credit. The original recipe made for a lot of additions I couldn't do without!

8 oz. goat cheese (chevre)

1 t ground cinnamon

1 c chopped walnuts, finely crushed

1 t honey

1 t kosher salt

1 c Dried cranberries


Cream together the goat cheese and cinnamon.  Chill for 15 minutes in the fridge.  Stir together the honey with the walnut pieces and salt.  Spread out on a sheet of parchment paper. On another sheet of parchment paper, spread out the dried cranberries.

Remove the cheese from the fridge and shape it into a log and roll this log in the walnut pieces, and then the cranberries.  As the original recipe says, press the cranberry into spaces that didn't pick up. The parchment paper will help make this easier to roll as it mimics sushi and egg roll methods. 

After chilling for a minimum of fifteen minutes, serve on a pretty platter with a variety of crackers.  Don't you just love the way it looks sliced?  This can also be refrigerated for a day before serving in plastic wrap..  Enjoy 😊  


And that's a wrap!  I am already preparing for Thanksgiving.  Like most of you, last year we had no company, no family.  The husband and I made the most of it with a smaller turkey and side dishes.  This year we have all been vaccinated, in fact The Husband and I had the booster vaccine a few weeks ago.  And we always wear masks in public places.

I am of course, a worried planner who stresses over every detail, but I found a step by step guide from three weeks before turkey day and on.  Normally I wouldn't  follow something like this but my idol, Ina Garten claims a guide like this is her Go To every year.  I found this Thanksgiving countdown guide on a great food blog, The Spruce Eats.  I think you'd like to follow this sight, it's one of the best food blogs I subscribe to.


Happy November friends! ❤️


Jane x



  



Saturday, October 23, 2021

RENOVATIONS AT THE LAKEHOUSE + A SIMPLE RECIPE FROM ACROSS THE WORLD



Lucy June, my Lulu

Hello friends.  I'm glad to be back so soon.  If you read my post from last week, which you can find here, you'll know that I've had a hectic year with many lows.  When I finally sat down and wrote and then read your comments after, a feeling of relief came out like a long sigh.  I felt again the community we have in blogging and in sharing our thoughts, feelings, recipes, photos, and all the good times and bad.  It was like getting a warm hug.  I began planning another post soon after and I'm looking forward to keeping it going. 😊

Above is a picture of Lucy, or as I like to call her, Lulu.  She'll be two next month.  This is Madelyn's little sister.  She is what a lot of people call a "Covid" baby, as in we didn't get to spend much time with her as we normally would have.  Now we are best buds and I love that she is all over me when I see her with her chirpy little greeting, "Hi Gama"!  My son also has a little guy going on two, Bobby, and he's the most sweetest  little boy with blonde hair and blue eyes.  I'll have to steal one of his pictures!


Abby, me, and Squall
Diamond Lake 10/16/21


And then as I mentioned last week, My baby, Abby, and her Tom, are having their own baby and she's due December 18.  So a Christmas baby rather than Covid.  I really can't wait to help her out, even if it's cooking and cleaning just to get them over that bumpy, no sleep, exhausting time.  And it will be so nice to get out of the house to do something more than grocery shopping, seeing doctors, and errands.  I truly missed my regular activities and energy while we were going through the pandemic, and then after the awful surgery and recovery.  Tom is a high school teacher, as is Abby, and his the school is basically three blocks down the street.  He's home at 3:00 p.m., so that's a blessing.  And then an entire summer off.  




We've had ongoing exterior renovations at the lakehouse since late August.  The wood front porch and balcony shown above had been slowly rotting over the past fifteen years due to the natural elements, especially harsh Michigan winters.  It actually took me three summers to find the right contractor.  People showed up and then never returned.  Others never showed at all.  And then there were companies we just didn't trust.  But finally I struck gold and although the tear down and rebuild was costly, it was a structural accident waiting to happen.  

If you look on my sidebar you can see that the cottage was previously painted blue.  How I hated that color.  One of my neighbors said she liked it, that it looked like a "Storybook Cottage", then I knew I had to jump on painting it.  I dreamed of a classic white home with black trim.  It suits the double A frame.  This is a dreary October photo which will change in the spring with the lights changed out, the front door painted, some new shrubs and flowers, outdoor furniture, and the sidewalk weeded and power washed.  Happy days coming soon!   



This is the lakeside of the house (above is the street side).  I love the sun these windows that let the shine in.  At night it looks spectacular from outside with the glow of the lights.  A boxwood hedge and stone wall separate a small yard and meanders down to our beach.  The covered patio is to the left and I'll get to that another time.    



And here we have the guest house, or as the kids always called it, The Little House.  It's basically my larger than normal She Shed, with a great porch for sitting and reading quietly, and a closer view of the lake where I can watch the geese, ducks, swans, and turtles pruning and sunbathing.  Inside are all the comforts of home; an old drop leaf table and chairs for my writing, some comfy wicker furniture, and a TV that gets little reception.  There are two small closets that open and twin size Murphy beds pull out.  With seven screened windows, it's like sitting or sleeping in a birdhouse or nest up in the trees!  I've shared photos of the inside but I'm going to switch out some of the cushions and pillows this coming spring for a different color scheme inside. 
 





On a different and sadder subject, and the most upsetting thing that rocked my world this year, was the passing of my brother about four weeks ago.  He had just been diagnosed with cancer of the chest wall, and was optimistic and in good spirits when he began chemotherapy.  He was in great shape as a life long athlete, baseball and football coach, in addition to his recent retirement from 47 years of high school teaching.  Three weeks after the first chemo, it was found it had damaged his  previously healthy heart and he died September 26 of a massive heart attack.  I still feel like I'm in shock.  That he's gone and how this wasn't in the game plan.  The days down near Louisville for his funeral, surrounded by his family, friends, colleagues, students,  young and grown men he had taught and coached over most of his lifetime, and my sisters, was so, so painful.  I can't think about him without tearing up.  So I'll end it here.  Rest in peace Bro.  



Roasted Tandoori Chicken

I mentioned in my last post that I was experimenting with some cultural recipes to get out of the same old routine and experiment with different flavors.  Indian spices and the combination of them really intrigue me and if you don't have the ones called for in this recipe, fear not, your regular grocery store has them stocked and you can get the small sizes if you don't think you'll be using them much.

In this photo (credit: The Modern Proper) you can see that a whole chicken was used in the recipe.  It has been spatchcocked, or the spine broken and removed to spread the whole chicken flat.  I did this once and although it worked, I need to brush up on my technique because it was difficult and the chicken looked pretty mangled.  Have you ever done this?


I adapted the recipe from the food blog The Modern Proper  and made some personal changes.  I used chicken thighs to retain that crispiness and juicy meat without all the work of spatchcocking.  I also used coconut flavored yogurt and it worked well.  And finally, I tasted the yogurt and spice blend and found I wanted a bit more cinnamon and cayenne pepper.  What a great juxtaposition.  If you make this, let me know and please share any new~to~you recipes in your comments.  

Roasted Tanddori Chicken

2 1/2 lbs. chicken thighs, skin on, trimmed of fat
1/2 c Greek coconut flavored yogurt (or plain)
3+ T fresh lemon juice
1 T fresh ginger (about a 1 inch piece)*
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t ground turmeric
1 T chili powder
1-2 t cayenne pepper
2 t cinnamon
2 t cumin 
1+ t sea salt
A handful of fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine the yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, and dried spices.  Add in salt to taste.

Place the chicken thighs on a baking sheet on top of a rack if you have one.  You will still get the crispiness without one.  Slather the yogurt mixture on the whole pieces of chicken,  I did this over the sink with a large spoon.  Place on rack.

Roast for approximately 45 minutes or until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees in the thickest part.  Sprinkle with additional sea salt and serve over fresh cilantro or parsley, reserving some to to lightly dust on top.  Serves approximately 6.

* I keep my fresh ginger in the freezer for about 6 months.  If using a small portion as required in this recipe, there is no need to peel it, simply grate if finely.  DO NOT attempt to cut a piece of frozen garlic with a knife, it's dangerous!  It's not hard, however,  to break off a chunk. 

Thanks so much for visiting and for leaving comments on my last post.  It made me feel a lot more positive in so many ways. 

Next weekend is the baby shower for Abby.  I'm in charge of the floral arrangements, cake table decor, and the funding! πŸ˜‚.  I am very excited and I'll be sure to take an excessive amount of pics to share in my next post.

Jane x


Thursday, October 14, 2021

BLONDIES BACK




 Hello friends!  Just wanted to let you know I'm alive and well.  I visit all of your blogs so often, but rarely leave comments as you might come back to my blog and there has been nothing written since maybe February?  I have no intention to give up blogging...it has always been cathartic for me.  I remember when I wrote such funny posts about great days.  Even not so great days.  And of course, I still have them but what a challenging year this has been.


I still have problems with loading pics, so here is a summer pic.  Happy!  I'm busy and not busy.  I spent so much time flat on my back until I could have my back surgery.  Covid vaccines and availability of hospital space dragged it on until the end of May.  I was off my back for several weeks before the surgery and then after.  No pity party here.  I've bounced back finally in the last few weeks, walking Poppy about a mile a day and clocking an average of 8000 to 12,000 steps a day according to my Fitbit.  Housework and chasing after grandkidlets will do that for you!


Before the surgery and definitely after, I declared I hated cooking.  No more.  No desire.  I was sore and tired and we subsisted on grilled cheese and cereal for dinner.  Oh, yes, frozen dinners which The Husband thought were genius.  He can't fry an egg but the microwave really chuffs him.  Thank the Lord.  The kids and everyone said, seriously, you hate cooking?  I was adamant.  I couldn't look at the stove, my wall of spices. my drawer of chef knives.  The desire was gone.

But I knew I wasn't going to be a 61 year old lady who limped along here and there, and sat on the sidelines.  So I've been working my bum off to get both inner and outer drive and strength.  And on a good note, I'm cooking again...delving into Middle Eastern recipes which have always challenged and interested me.  So far, so good.

On the home front, we have been blessed in that we are all vaccinated and spending time together.  This has made up for all the pain and isolation of last year and the first part of this year.  Since I have severe asthma, I'm eligible for the Covid Booster shot, scheduled for next week.  I'm very grateful for that. 


 My daughter, Abigail, and her husband, Tom, are expecting their first child in December.  There is something so different about this for me.  She's my baby.  I've held her hand through every doctor's appointment and wisdom tooth surgery.  She hasn't so much said it, but if its possible to have more than one person in the room according to Covid protocol, I may be there for the special time. I can't imagine another experience such as this.

Abby and Tom bought a house about five blocks from us about two years ago.  Emily and Mike just bought a home five blocks in the other direction!  How good can it get?  To see them and my grandchildren so conveniently?  I'm so blessed.

The Husband has had a lot of health problems. I was beating around the bush in 2012 when he had cancer, as I felt it was his journey and not something I should share.  I believe in the power of prayer but please...don't leave me comments that overwhelm me, with all due respect -I need space. Tell me how you have coped, how you have faced life alone, how you've navigated these rough waters, and even email me if you want to "talk".  But please, no exclusive focus on this.  I'm taking it day by day.  Be patient with me.  

 I could write volumes about all that has gone on in my world since I last blogged.  No use trying to  backtrack.  Maybe snippets in another post.  Please bear with me if this sounds like a total downer.  We have our ups and downs, good times and bad, and life throws us a lot of curves.  And I say laughing, the color and font of this post are beyond my own workings! But who cares.  Let it go.


So...I'll be back soon.  The holiday season is coming up fast and it consumes me as an OCD person who can never let things be.  I'll never learn at this age, so let's just celebrate!!


Love and hugs and so grateful for your support-❤️


Jane


Thursday, April 29, 2021

SPRING MARCHES ON IN A PHOTO-LESS BLONDIEVILLE

 






I made this little cutie for my granddaughter with more requests from the rest.  Isn't it precious?  I was actually at Hobby Lobby with Emily and the girls and came upon the needlework section.  I saw three tiny kits to make this, as well as a sloth, and an owl.  I asked Madelyn if I could make this little lamb for her.  She said, "Yes, Grandma, but it's a unicorn."  Oh, well, I still think it looks like a lamb.  I made the sloth for daughter Abby because, well...it fits.

I became very interested again in needlework since I'm pretty much off my feet several hours a day.  I rummaged through some of my half finished projects as well as  samplers, which I'm really not interested in doing.  I will say that Amalia at Handmade By Amalia truly inspired me to get into some of the whimsical hand stitching she does so well.  I have none of her talent.  She tells the most wonderful stories and poems on her blog and Instagram feed-give her a visit!   I have some online projects ordered.  I'm sad to say there isn't much at all to be found in Hobby Lobby or Michael's.  I drove out (into the burbs) to a Jo Ann Fabric and they had zero.  Nothing.  A few cheap counted cross stitch kits.  And they're selling clothing and jewelry now. What???  If you do any sort of this using an online shop, please let me know.

And this is my only photo for you, I still can't load them.  I have even searched You Tube and there was a video in which a guy concurred with the dumbass picture loading issues with Blogger and illustrated how he copies and pastes his images, but it wasn't clear from where.  This really doesn't bode well with bloggers who seem to be disappearing quickly.  I'm determined to keep it up.  I found blogging and blogging found me after my sister died.  Writing gave me the chance to escape from the real and cruel world, and forced me to look at the good things in my life.  I still go back in my blog which I started  in 2009, and although my photos are lousy, it brings back things I had forgotten, from people, parties, vacations, everyday happenings, and then the photos.  A written journal doesn't have that impact.  And I keep everything here clean and fun as opposed to my written journals!

If anyone uses Blogger, please email me with your advice.  

So this is a photo of Poppy playing in the daffs:

                                                    😑

We've had a lot of rain so as you can't see, they are mud spattered and drooping.  I can see them from the house all along the fence and that's where they can stay.  The tulips are really coming up now-I cannot wait for their show!🌷
                                              
And this is a picture of a new garden bed:


                                                  🀬


I'm happy I got it mostly up and running last fall so there really wasn't any hard work to be done--I did the pointing and The Husband did all the digging.  I'll tell you another time what was planted, I've lost the stick markers. I still use that free phone app called Picture This.  Just snap a photo of your flower, plant, bush, tree, or weed and it will identify it and give you all sorts of info.  I also have some flower seeds planted; four 'o clocks, moonflowers, zinnias, and cosmos.



I don't really know when we will get back to the lake to just hang out.  The kids are coming up the weekend of May 15 to help unload all of the summer furniture, beach toys, and all things outdoors. The boat will be dropped off and we have The Beach Boys replenishing sand and weeding.  I didn't make a big mark in the cleaning of the house the last time I was there and that includes a ton of laundry and getting the guest rooms company ready.  I'm going to pick up some drop cloth from a hardware store and cut sections it to drape over the beds whenever I leave.  No one wants to sleep in a bed that has sat in a room undisturbed for weeks.  I leave windows cracked but I always wash my bedding and dust my room upon arriving or else my allergies would go bonkers.  So that's my lightbulb idea.  

Between my back issues and The Husband having new health problems, I'm doing my best to consolidate appointments into chunks so we can get away whenever we can, whether it be the lake, Asheville, a getaway vacation somewhere warm, anywhere.  I really hope so.  

My current read is Daughter's of Erietown by Connie Schultz. It had good reviews and I was having a real fiction mood.  It really is good so far.  

Well, I'm off for now.  I'll probably think of a zillion other things I could have mentioned but it's about time I was short and sweet!

Be well 🌸

Jane x


Sunday, April 18, 2021

A LITTLE GAME OF CATCH-UP WITH BLONDIE


I miss all of you!!  I never thought I would seriously get anything out anytime soon.  You know--it's everything and nothing going on at the same time.  My biggest reason for absence has been problems loading my photos on Blogger.  I thought I would throw my laptop across the room if I couldn't figure it out after another try.  It's working...for now.  If anyone out there is on the new Blogger, give a girl a hand! I also found out that Feedburner is making changes and if you subscribe to my blog or anyone else by email, that's going to end in July.  We were advised to download our list of subscribers but what to do from there is questionable. Any idea?

I hate to start off all techy (or tech-less) but all of this just made blogging unappealing.  I'm going to do my best and hop in the saddle again! 

These tulips are from the grocery store and I actually bought them a few years ago.  Are they faux?  No-I just posted an old photo. πŸ˜‚. I had to laugh at something I saw on Buzzfeed now that I just used that crying emoji.  They shared texts from people who thought their parents  were undeniably inept at  emoji's and how to use them.  One really made my jaw drop:

Hey son.  Your Uncle Mark died. πŸ’€

And another from someone whose mother thought the "laughing til I'm crying" emoji was really crying hysterically:

Judy, I know you'll be sad, but my kitty passed away. 🀣

Ahhhh...we all need a little laughter these days.  You can subscribe to Buzzfeed on your phone apps.  I love it. 




I make this candy as an Easter treat (which of course, has come and gone).  I thought I'd share because you can use whatever little candies you like for holidays, seasons, etc.  I like to make an "adult" version with good chocolate pieces, some pretzels, and smashed up macadamia nuts.  Out. Of. This. World.  In a nutshell πŸ™„:

Place almond bark or white chocolate pieces in a large bowl and microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring as you go until melted.  Spread on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and then adorn with your choice of edibles.  Place in your fridge for about fifteen minutes.  Break into pieces and store in a plastic container for a few days or until gone, whichever comes first and I can make a good guess!

 



Have you tried any CBD products?  There are SO many out there and a lot of mixed reviews and misinformation.  I did a fair amount of research hoping to find something that would help me with my everyday anxiety and sleep issues.  I settled on this brand and I'm not disappointed.  I take the daily gelcap in the morning, and a dose of the daily drops in the evening before bed.  I do feel a sense of calm, nothing intoxicating at all.  I also use the natural oil for my face, hands and ends of my hair.  The gentle scent is heavenly and that alone is relaxing.  Anyway, in my humble opinion, if you are interested in CBD products at all, this is a good company.  I like that it's geared toward women, not to mention attractively packaged.  Check out Equalibria online.
 



Another share I have for you is my subscription for these energy bars from a company called Verb.  For a tiny little bar that can fit in the palm of your hand, they pack a lot of punch energy-wise.  The caffeine content is equal to a cup of espresso so it doesn't cause any jittery feelings, just a nice boost if you are having a midday slump or have evening plans when all you want to do is put on your PJ's and cuddle with your pups.  I've been getting my little monthly supply for well over a year now.  The flavors, like Lemon Raspberry and Salted Peanut Butter are awesome and change up quite often.  Maybe this is something you might want to try.  Go online to Verb Energy.  And of course you know I don't make money for endorsing anything, I'm just a very pushy person that likes to spread the word on good things.



My reliable daffodils are blooming wild and tulips are just starting to open as well.  I need to make a note of bare spots.  As this area dies down, I have coneflowers, phlox, sedum, and daylily that spring up for the entire summer.  I'm working on edging out another border with an excess supply of cobblestones and flagstone, adding flowers and plants as I go along.  Well actually, I work at telling The Husband where things go.

 I'm going in for surgery on my back(again).  Sometimes I feel like I'm ninety years old.  My back is miserably messed up.  It's only been three years since I had a partial fusion, and now an area needs to be clamped and screwed nowhere near the first fusion.  

For the most part, since the end of November, I have been spending less and less time on my feet and more lying in bed, taking pain meds, drinking tea, reading, watching a little TV on my laptop, and just appreciating the company of the pups.  Surgery is scheduled for May 24.  What a way to start out the summer.  πŸ€¦πŸΌ‍♀️

I can do my thing for about six hours stopping to rest now and then.  Sometimes it feels like there isn't a darn thing wrong and then my spine shifts and boom, it presses on a nerve and the pain goes down my leg to my heel.  Anyway, I've been doing what I can to simplify things once I'm home from the hospital. I make extra large dinners so I can freeze a good potion for meals The Husband can make.  I've been organizing and tossing a lot of things.  It's just mundane stuff that will nag at me and wish I had gotten done before the surgery.  

In other news, I'm fully vaccinated and my family as well-it's so great being together again.  Illinois has done a great job with vaccines but I'm still keeping a low profile, doing as much as I can to stay out of the grocery stores, etc.  I know for the younger crowd, being stuck inside and not being able to socialize has been rough.  For me and The Husband, it wasn't a huge adjustment to stay home, we just missed family and friends.  Thank goodness for books!  I picked up my needlework again and even gave felting a try.  

I'll leave you with that.  Bring me up to date on how you are, what you have been up to, and anything else I've missed!❤️

Jane x


 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

FRESH DECOR CHANGES INSIDE & OUT, BOOKS, AND SOME DELICIOUS RECIPES





Hello friends and strangers!  I'm not even going to apologize for all the time that has passed since I last posted🀦🏼‍♀️.  I'm trying to make up for it with a pretty picture from my archives.  These beautiful roses were from my grocery store if I remember right. So pretty. 

I stopped physically going to the stores back in November when I was worried about flu season starting on top of the Covid.  I really enjoy the whole shopping experience so I can't say I like having groceries delivered.  The shopper just never seems to get the produce right. The other evening I placed an order mainly for fruit and vegetables I had run low on since my last "big" shopping order.  Out of twenty odd items I received only half, and none of it produce.  I ended up having to place a second order with another grocery store and surprisingly, they had everything I needed.  πŸ€·‍♀️






After I had packed away all of my holiday decor in mid January, I left everything bare for a while.  I am so tired of clutter but I have a hard time taking a minimalist approach.  Perhaps its just me but balance is the key when it comes to shelves.  It can all go downhill with the wrong number of pieces, their relation to each other, how they measure, how they're spaced, color family, etc.  When I try something simple, the shelves or mantel look barren.  If I use too many pieces it gets busy and confusing, the focus is thrown off.  Do I sound too technical for someone not trained in design?  Hahahaha!

I made a list of what I didn't want, sometimes that's a great place to start.  I wanted to get off the "cottage" style I had for many years.  I was so inspired by what I saw and read in Gil Schaffer's book A Place To Call Home.  I felt like I was stepping back in time to the way I decorated in my home long ago.  With the creaky floors and huge fireplace, I leaned toward darker colors, florals, thrift store finds with a history, and subtle pops of freshness with plants, books, and framed artwork.  I took tapestry rugs over geometrical, and drapes over curtains.  

Emily came over when I was contemplating what I wanted to do in the living room after Christmas.  She took all the pieces (is there a better word?) I wanted to use and arranged them in such a way that I had that balance I strive for.  As you can see, there are different heights and layers, organic touches as well as old books, and a color scheme of browns, creams, and green.  




  I was just so intrigued by how she walked around the house and picked up this and that from each room and then shuffled, arranged and rearranged everything until it was to her liking (and mine).  She also took a few steps back every now and then to look at different angles...now, remember to do that if you want to look professional!  Seriously, I can learn from her, free of charge of course.  She has that college degree in part by the generosity of myself and The Husband!






I started to use planner a few years ago when I wanted something a little more personal than a wall hung calendar.  It's nice to have something that can fit in your bag.  I no longer carry around cards with appointments, or pieces of paper with scribbles.  I guess I'm still a little old fashioned, I don't use my cell phone much for it's calendar or notes.  Anyway, even though you might have this end covered, I wanted to share my planner with you (and yes--I know, we are going into March!) and give a shout out to this women owned business, Me And My Big Ideas.  They make several types of planners and journals and they are just so cute, inside and out.  Colorful illustrations, quotes and inspirational words; it's also perfect for doodling in.  Grab some colored pencils or markers, maybe some stickers (I order them from Amazon), and start each month with some artwork that will unleash anticipation for the coming days and weeks.  I originally found this line at Target but since I haven't ventured out recently, I scored it on Amazon where you will also find all sorts of products by these talented ladies. ⭐️⭐️⭐️




My draw dropped when I saw this on West Elm, and not just over the furniture-- that's not too shabby either, but the whole space.  It looks like it can be boxed up and dropped off in my backyard where my current patio is.  Even the homes in the background resemble those here on the Southside.  So, very much in the same way that you might see a sofa or dining room set and say, "I love it and it's going to be perfect..." that's how I feel about this picture.  



This is the most recent picture I have of the patio, possibly summer of 2017.   I have wanted something done with the cracked concrete and I think I'll do brick pavers.  I have the room to extend all the way up to the brick.  I'll never grow ivy again, it was strangling my house a few years ago and I had to have it professionally removed.  To add greenery I think I'll bring out some of my large potted plants.  In a nutshell if I move things around I just may be able to have an informal gathering space.  So what do you think?  I'm in love with the size and shape of that little table, and how they mixed up the furniture by adding a chair rather than a third piece from the set.  That saves you a lot of money.  I've seen outdoor furniture everywhere so I hope I can get something similar if West Elm is out of the budget.  Any ideas or something you suggest I add to the whole patio?  I find making plans for summer a little uplifting when there are 10 inches of melting (finally) snow on the ground and another two months til warm sunny days.  

 



I talk more about my reading on Instagram, maybe because I post more often there, but I really have been hitting the books.  I vowed to read a book a week and I'm doing pretty well.  Some books overlap such as when I have a non fiction book going and then feel the need for something fictional and so I go back and forth for a few days.  I don't do book reviews so if you see one you might be interested in, all I can do is tell you what I thought of the book after finishing it.  I almost always order from Amazon and I think they have good reviews from publishers, media, authors and the average Joe.  What a pile I have here.  A few I've read. 

As I look around my bedroom right now from where I'm typing away on my bed, its piles of books on my nightstand along with a lukewarm cup of tea (spiced turmeric), laundry to be folded in a basket on the floor, random slippers and socks, and a menagerie of dog toys.  Home. And I'm almost looking forward to getting up tomorrow morning and getting things in order and doing a nice housecleaning.  Still nesting and faffing (as they say in England).


I have two recipes for you.  One I clearly made at Christmas and it has become my very favorite homemade cookie.  I only make them for special people because I will surely eat half of them.  I recently gifted our next door neighbor with a box for snowplowing our driveway a few times over the past few weeks that we've had tremendous amounts of snow.  Even with my wonky back I can shovel the porch and steps but forget the driveway.  Then the snow plows come by several times a day and make a wall at the end of the driveway and it's back to square one.  Anyway...here's that famous recipe:




White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies 


3/4 c butter, softened
3/4 c dark brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
2 t vanilla
2 c flour
2 t cornstarch
1 t baking soda
3/4 c white chocolate chips
3/4 c  dried cranberries

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a large bowl cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go.  Mix in the flour, cornstarch, and baking soda.  Finally, stir in the white chocolate chips and dried cranberries.  Chill dough at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.

Drop tablespoon size balls of dough on the lined baking sheet spaced about 1 inch apart.  They really don't spread much.  Bake approximately 8-9 minutes until barely golden brown.  They will firm up as they cool.  Let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then remove them to a rack or platter.  If you are using the same baking sheet, make sure it has cooled down completely before dropping more dough.



Easy Focaccia Bread

A lot of people have started baking bread, or have returned to baking bread during this time that we are sheltered in.  I have made bread in the past but it seemed like a long process only to result in one loaf-my sons could make one sandwich with.  Another reason I wasn't keen on it also ties in with baking.  I detest cleaning up flour and washing dishes and utensils with clumps of flour and dough.  Weird?  I think it's just in my blood I should cook and not bake.  

Then you find a recipe that's easy and has your mouth watering before you've finished reading it.  I can't remember where I found the original recipe and I tweaked it quite a bit as it was very wordy with a lot of unnecessary tips.  It's a winner in more ways than one.  The recipe turns out fab results with minimal hands on time.  And for people like me who don't "get" the math and science of baking, its ridiculously easy.  Shall I add that there is no kneading? It may sound time consuming and a lot of steps but I wanted to break it down for those of you who haven't given bread making a try.  So let's get on it.

4 c flour
2 t kosher salt
2 1/4 t instant yeast (or 1 packet)
2 c warm tap water
1 t butter, softened  ( for greasing pan)
4 T olive oil, divided
Italian seasoning or finely chopped herbs
Flaky sea salt

In a medium- large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and instant yeast.  Stir well.  Add the warm water.  With a sturdy wooden spoon or spatula mix well until there are no small pockets of flour.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24.   

About two hours until baking time, lightly grease two round pans with a bit of soft butter, line them with parchment paper and then give that a drizzle of olive oil.  Remove the bowl from the refrigerator, divide the dough in two and place them in the pans.  Now just go on about your business and come back two hours later.  

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  The dough will have filled the pans and be ready to bake.  Top the dough with another drizzle of olive oil.  Poke a few holes in the soft dough (after you washed them of course), and then sprinkle with sea salt and whatever you have chosen as far as herbs and spices.  I like the combination of rosemary and oregano.  If you are using fresh herbs, chop them up finely, and for presentation, maybe use a whole rosemary stem or two decoratively on the surface.  

Reduce the oven heat to 425 and bake for 22-28 minutes, until the tops are golden and the undersides crisp.  Remove from the oven and using a spatula, remove the rounds from the pans and transfer to a rack to cool.  Cut into thin slices to serve.

This bread is delicious with meals or to make sandwiches with.  I like it as an appetizer with company cut into two inch pieces and served on a platter with a small bowl of olive oil flavored with garlic and parmesan cheese.  You can also freeze the bread and when ready to use, thaw it, then heat it up in a 350 degree oven.  Enjoy!


 
I hope that this post wasn't too long.  Now that we're caught up we can move on to current happenings, and there are a lot, just in my world alone!  Take care.  Stay healthy.  Keep wearing those masks.

Jane x