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







Thursday, December 3, 2020

HOLIDAY DECOR, COVID FOOD CRAVINGS, RECIPES & BLONDIES RAMBLINGS

 





Hello friends!  I'm trying to stay on top of my blogging.  I am such a procrastinator and I wholeheartedly admit it.  And I do not like commitments so I wait until the eleventh hour.  This got me in some hot water a few weeks ago when my December newspaper article deadline arrived and I found that the regular old way I added photos to my blog was now totally undoable.  I still don't remember how I did it, but I do know my editor was frothing at the mouth over my excuses and delays in going to press on time.  And I never had the time to share all I wanted to during this festive time.  So---for this post I finally figured out that I could drag photos from my downloads (I use a MacBook Pro) and insert them in my blog draft.  This is the only way I could make it work and I'm extremely angry that the new Blogger changed so much with zero explanations or guides.  Google was even using the old guidelines which no longer work.  

What a rant!  I have a picture here from last year.  I love my vintage salt & pepper shakers.  Many never notice that they're not Mr. and Mrs. Claus, they are actually two Santa's.  Isn't that odd?  Maybe the maker never saw Miracle On 34th Street...there is only one Father Christmas!  

I haven't even begun to decorate...my stuff is beautifully organized downstairs but I like to buy my live tree first.  And I'm seriously going to go minimal this year and I really mean it!  There may be no company, no one dropping in, and who knows if I'll be able to have the kids and grands here in the morning for gift giving and mimosas. I'm playing it by ear.






I read and hear a lot about people putting on the Covid pounds; working from home and indulging a bit too much on food and drink to heal our loss of family and social life, it's not uncommon.  But I'm addressing cravings here.  I often wonder if we have them because our bodies are telling us we are missing something.  Or maybe we just get hooked on something we haven't had in awhile.  

I gave up yogurt when I really started to cut carbs well over fifteen years ago when the Atkins diet became a hit.  I still have fond memories of the days when I worked in an office in my early twenties.  Once in awhile the receptionist, and a great pal, would leave a carton of Dannon yogurt on my desk as a little surprise when she brought her own.  Then I would return the favor.  Don't ask me how but we never did it on the same day.  

Early this year I came across Two Good yogurt (this is not a paid promotion).  I was looking for the glitch ...2 grams of sugar and fat?  80 calories?  It sounded too (two) good to be true.  Well, I can tell you, its as smooth and creamy as pudding, and the flavors are perfect without being overly tart.  I believe it's in most grocery stores.  I really love the peach and mixed berry flavors.  Give it a shot.

So, was my body telling me I needed calcium?  Protein?  Were my taste buds telling me that salty potato chips and sweet cookies were no longer necessary? Who knows but I should own stock in the company and I would love a year of 
free Two Good if the Yogurt Gods are reading.πŸ˜‚





By summer my cravings 
 turned into fruit.  Fresh fruit is often a side or a snack at the cottage, especially with the little grandkidlets running around in the sun and heat.  I like a little bowl of fruit when we have breakfast at restaurants, but at this point I was cutting up an abundance of fruit I would buy; pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, etc.  And the best part to me is to stir and flip the fruit everyday to get that refreshing and flavorful combination of the mixed juices.  So no one is surprised to see ripening pineapple with its pretty texture and festive top, or melons taking up space in the fridge.  So, what is my body craving?  Hydration?  Natural sugars?  Something crunchy and cooling?  Hmmmm...





Spicy Ginger Beef Noodles

And yet another must-have food: noodles.  I'll take them any way.  I also wanted beef broth and saltiness.  And thus ramen bowls became a hit in Blondie's household.  You can find a lot of choices of ramen noodles in the Asian aisle of your grocery store, they are wheat based and originate from Japan, but come in many different forms.  

Anyway, I love noodles and I've been craving salt, and what better excuse do you have for taking in a coma inducing amount of salty soy sauce?  I was adding it to food much like kids add ketchup to everything.  So I was making many bowls of ramen and this is one I created and is a keeper. 

Jane's Spicy Ginger Beef Noodles

8 oz. noodles of your choice
1 T veggie oil
1 t sesame oil
8 oz thinly sliced sirloin beef
1 knob (or inch) of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 c (or a handful) of fresh snow peas
1 c baby Bok choy, thinly sliced into ribbons
3 cloves of garlic,  finely chopped
4 c beef broth 
1/4 c soy sauce
2-3 scallions, trimmed, tops and bottoms, roughly chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 c fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

My mantra, particularly in this recipe, is to chop, slice, grate, or whatever before you begin cooking.  It's essential for a recipe that involves bringing the layers of flavor together in a short amount of time.  Don't get fussy, just do all of this work at the start and keep everything separated on your cutting board (mine is super large)

Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Turn the heat down to low and cover.  Meanwhile, add both oils to a large skillet over high heat.  Add the beef and cook, using tongs to flip about 2 minutes.  

Lower the heat to medium and add the ginger, snow peas, and Bok choy, and continue to toss approximately 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic and toss for another minute, then add the beef broth and soy sauce.  Let simmer on low.

Up the heat on the pot of water for the noodles to a boil.  Add them, stir often and check the noodles by tasting them until they are soft, then strain.

Divide the noodles into two bowls, pour over the veggie/broth mixture. Top with scallions, a bit of red pepper flakes, and the cilantro.  Serve immediately. 






I made a pasta dinner one night last week and while I usually use half the box, I used the whole pound...way too much for The Husband and I.  I kept the remaining half cooked pound in the fridge not sure of what to do with it and not liking waste.  Then I came across a recipe for baked spaghetti, actually quite a few.  I got the gist of it and then put together this recipe.  Feel free to make changes as far as the ingredients and cheeses.  You will absolutely love this.  

Jane's Pasta Casserole

1/2 pound spaghetti noodles, cooked
5 bacon strips, roughly chopped
1 T vegetable oil
1 onion chopped
1 sweet pepper, red, orange or yellow-your choice,  finely chopped
garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 1/2 c frozen peas, thawed
5 T butter cut into small pieces
1 1/2 c grated mozzarella cheese, divided
2 T dried oregano
2 T dried rosemary
2 t nutmeg
2 t ground cloves
S&P
5 eggs, whisked
2 T butter, melted
1 c bread crumbs
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese


Place the bacon pieces in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until crisp.  Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel.  When the skillet is somewhat cool, wipe out the remaining bacon drippings with paper towels.  Add the vegetable oil and once hot, the onions and peppers.  Saute over medium heat until just softened.  Add the garlic and stir for another minute and off the heat.

Place the cooked pasta in a large bowl.  With two forks or your fingers (as I did, clean of course), separate the strands of spaghetti until no longer sticky and clumped.  Add the cooked veggies, the peas, 1 cup of the mozzarella and  butter.  Do another good toss. 

 Mix the dried spices and salt and pepper together in a small dish.  Add half to the pasta mix, toss, and then the other half, tossing again until it's evenly incorporated.  Since the pasta is cooked, you can sample a forkful to adjust the seasoning before baking. 

Pour the mixture into a casserole dish of your choosing.  I used a deep dish so I'd get more density and less dryness.  Once in the dish, mix things together again.  You want everything blended.  Pour the whisked eggs evenly over the pasta and then top with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes covered with foil  Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes.  Top the casserole with the bread crumb mixture and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or as I did, under the broiler until lightly browned.

Let the casserole cool slightly, then using a knife, slice into squares.  Use a spatula to serve.  Oh girls, you will ❤️ this recipe!  Serves 6-8 with a side salad or good bread.  Enjoy!





and 


 I found the recommendations for this book on Instagram but I can't remember where.  As a writer I was drawn to it, and as a long time admirer of the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, I knew this would suit me.  

Amazon description: The Editor...is about a struggling writer who gets his big break, with a little help from the most famous woman in America.

It's fictional but based on fact.  In the last years of her life, Jackie was an editor at Doubleday. When she died, her son said that she passed away peacefully, surrounded by family and her precious books. I'm only a few chapters in so the verdict is not out.  Stay tuned, I'm loving it so far.   





I wrote on Instagram that I was well into this limited series on Netflix.  Wow, it seems I'm the last one on the train!  I'm really liking it thus far.  The Husband and I, as well as our older sons, were avid chess players, we had family tournaments quite a bit.  I think I'm going to dust off the old set.




As I said in the beginning of my post, I haven't yet started to decorate for Christmas.  This is a very sweet arrangement my daughter, Emily, made for a cabinet using faux greenery and little wood cutout homes from the dollar bins at Target.  I love her creativity and design on a dime.  I'm going to go very minimal, and to keep that mindset I'm only going to bring up select items from my bins and rely very much on candles and greenery.  I always fail to remember whatever I bring out also has to be put away.   Ugh...

Who knows how Christmas will be.  Our Thanksgiving family get-together was gathering in our backyard in 40 degree weather, wearing coats and hats and holding plastic cups of mimosas while wearing masks and walking around in an effort not to spend too much time with any one person.  Some of my family has had Covid, others were exposed, but this occurred well before Thanksgiving and they were all cleared.  Still...

Christmas is a toss up.  We've thought that maybe we  can do our traditional Christmas morning brunch and gift giving, at least for the sake the grands.  Even my children have gotten overly sentimental about it.  I'm hoping with the right protection: ventilation, masks, staying apart from one another and limiting our time, we might manage it.  No decisions yet.  



Emily found this discarded, once sad looking sleigh.  She spiffed it up with a little black paint, and created a cute winter scene!  The best thing is that her daughter, (and my much loved granddaughter!) Madelyn, participates in all of these projects.  She's going to be as inspiring as her mama.  I shared this wiz of a designer in my last post.

Okay, in winding up I'll give you a few things I'd love to hear about in your comments:

1). How's your holiday decorating going?  Finished or in no hurry?

2). Has the stress of this unprecedented time in our lives caused you to make changes in your eating habits, in particular cravings?  Or is it just me?  What are your favorite snacks and go to foods?

3). Do you think I should continue to post recipes?  I'm not a food blogger but like to share some newish sort of ways of cooking that come out of my scattered brain.

4). What are you reading and watching?  How much time are you devoting to these things?  And if your thing is knitting or journaling, how's that going?

5). Do you have definitive holiday plans?  What sort of precautions and protocol do you utilize right now as the pandemic is at it's all time high?

You don't have to answer each question.  As when you took exams in school, if you don't know the answer to a question, move on and come back to it later.πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Love and good health to all!❤️

Jane x




Friday, November 20, 2020

ALL THE FALL FEELS, RECIPES, & HAPPY ESSENTIAL "ME" FINDS



Happy fall days, friends.  This is a pic of the bay from last winter.  As you know my last visit was cut short due to my clumsy fall on the steps and this is the view I wanted to savor for awhile.  Nevertheless, here in Chicago I have a carpet of leaves on the front lawn and in the backyard and I'm going to have a slow go at raking. I'm still in a lightweight brace but I'm able to pull a loose boot over my foot and it gives me a lot of stability.  I'm having guilty feelings over Poppy not having more fun outdoors and I also really need the exercise.  Today I was tempted to take a slow stroll around the block with her and then I got distracted by something else~and she would have probably dragged me down the sidewalk!  But still, our weather has been ridiculously gorgeous!  Yesterday I sat on the back steps just to get fifteen minutes of sunshine.  Mmmmmm... 




Taco Style Baked Potatoes

Moving on to recipes a little earlier than usual, I am loving these potatoes, created and photographed by moi!

First up, the pairing of the much loved baked potato with a taco style filling/topping.  You can totally do whatever you want with this but I'll give you a simple recipe for mine, which very much consisted of what I had in my freezer and fridge.

2 large baking potatoes, scrubbed and washed
1/2 lb. ground beef
I/2  package taco seasoning mix
1 c chopped iceberg lettuce
2 scallions, thinly sliced
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 c sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c sour cream

Prick the potatoes several times with a sharp knife.  Bake at 375 approximately 1 hour (depending on the size). Insert the knife until it slides easily into potato.  Turn off the oven and let the potatoes stay warm until assembling.  

Meanwhile, add the ground beef to a medium size skillet and brown over medium heat, stirring often.
Drain and return to skillet.  Mix in the taco seasoning packet as per the directions but halved, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often until all of the liquid has absorbed.  

Slice the baked potatoes in half, smoosh with a fork, and then remove about a tablespoon or so of the potato in the center to form a well (you can save this to fry up with your eggs in the morning).  Prepare your toppings.  I assembled the potatoes and then finished them up.  First goes the seasoned ground beef into the center.  Then top with the lettuce, scallions and tomatoes.  Follow up with the cheese and sour cream. You can keep extra sour cream and cheese at the table.  Fair warning: you will need a fork and knife to eat this!  Serves 2. 





Buffalo Chicken Pizza

I think you guys know that I love making my own pizzas for a simple and quick meal after a busy day.  I like to use mostly veggies, sometimes zero meat, and just a brush of olive oil on the crust rather than a tomato based pizza sauce.  The toppings just shine this way.  I buy thin pre-made crusts sold in the Italian section of my grocery store, no need to refrigerate and a long shelf life to boot.  A tip here for thin crust pizza, don't forego the cornmeal on your pizza pan; a thin pizza can get mushy in the middle before it's done in the oven and it also prevents sticking as the cornmeal soaks up the liquid.  As always, use the topping you like in addition to the chicken.

1 lb. chicken tenders
3-4 T Frank's Hot Wings Sauce
8 T butter, melted
1 1/2 T olive oil, divided
1 thin crust fresh pizza
1 T cornmeal
2 c of assorted veggies you have on hand such as sweet peppers, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, etc., thinly sliced
2 c Mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 c crumbled, feta, goat, or bleu cheese
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
Dry mix~ 1/2 t each: Italian seasoning, granulated garlic, salt, fresh ground pepper, and a pinch of red chili flakes

Slice the chicken tenders in half.  Simmer in a saucepan of water  to cover until cooked through and can be flaked with a fork and knife, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix together the sauce and melted butter.  Drain the chicken in a colander and place in a  medium size bowl.  Slowly add the hot wing sauce and melted butter.  Set aside.

Place the pizza crust on a baling sheet, preferably round and sprinkled with cornmeal.  In a large bowl toss your veggies with the remainder of olive oil. Begin to layer the ingredients.  Start with half the Mozzarella to form the 'glue' to hold the veggies.  Next add the chicken evenly around the pie and sprinkle the mix of dry spices over that.  The grand finale is the remaining Mozzarella, your choice of cheese crumbles and the Parmesan.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper at the end.  Bake in a 400 degree oven to ensure the crispiness, for about 10 to 15 minutes.  We like our pizza well done so we leave it in longer or turn on the broiler for a few minutes.  Let the cooked pizza sit for about five minutes and then slice by pressing down with a large carving knife as opposed to a rolling pizza cutter or serrated  knife, a perfect way to keep the toppings from sliding willy nilly.   

If you have any questions, and especially if I made any mistakes in proportions, gulp, send me an email or mention in your comments. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Don't you just love when you find something new and you want to tell everyone about it?  I came across these water bottles and I was quickly drawn in by the various features that come together in making me reach for it every morning.  It's just that fantastic.





I bought one each for The Husband an myself.   First off, this is a 32 ounce container made of strong plastic with sides grips that help when regular bottles sweat.  Or you and your hand sweat~like after a workout. The bottle is  marked in increments of time and ounces consumed. Starting at 8:00 a.m. with a full bottle, you can see that you will need to consume 8 ounces in an hour, and so on and so forth.  By noon you will have had 32 ounces of water.  Now it's time to refill the bottle and continue to drink eight ounces per hours until 5:00 p.m.  And voila, you have had 64 ounces of hydration which is recommended by most health providers.  And finally... the bottle has an insert infuser in which you can add fruit or whatever you like to favor your water.  I love citrus fruit but but I once added a knob of ginger and that was really good. My favorite is pineapple.  

I probably wore you out with this but I swear, there are a lot peeps on my Christmas gift who will be getting one of these! Check out the website.







Yankee Candle:  A Calm and
 Quiet Place

I found this candle while sniffing around a floral and gift shop in the lake's downtown area.  It was smell at first sight!  When you've had enough of sweet summer scents, fall's pumpkin and spice wafting through the house, and evergreen everywhere, this candle is a nice respite.  It's a wonderful mix of jasmine, patchouli, and warm amber musk,  I have had a large candle burning in my kitchen right now, and usually a smaller version in my bedroom where I spend sone time reading and relaxing. 

I know that Yankee Candles are very pricey, most candles have seemed to up their prices.  I get my candles on Amazon now that I can't/won't venture into TJMaxx.  Give it a shot.





Clean Classic Reserve, Sephora

This perfume has been on the glass tray on my dresser for the past four years (not the same bottle of course).  It's very crisp and clean. You feel like you just stepped out of the shower and the scent of pure cleanliness stays with you all day. I wear this as my everyday perfume and get a lot of comments.  You can find it at Sephora

 I'm someone who has worn perfume since I was a teen.  I was fascinated by my mother's bottles on her own glass tray and I would sneak into her room quite a bit and spritz on a little White Shoulders or Youth Dew.  I felt so sophisticated!  And it became a lasting love and ritual.  Before I leave to go out of the house, I give myself a little mist of whatever fragrance is my fancy. My daughters have followed in their grandmother and mother's footsteps, they have their own favorite scents and I often gift them with a bottle on birthdays and at Christmas.






Made for Living by Amber Moore

I have way too many decorating books (much like my overflow of cookbooks). My interest ebbs and flows but lately I'm tiring of decorating websites which feature homes and apartments that all look alike with current trends. 

 Finding an author who compiles decorating ideas and knowledge and creativeness along with gorgeous photos and generous descriptions and tips is something you want to pore through.  This book had me at Hello!  Thus, it's on my bedside table, a little worn for being new, pages earmarked.  It's quite diverse, a little something for everyone.  I find the placement of furniture quite interesting, and ways to keep a room from feeling cluttered yet displaying your treasures in a seamless way.  Does everyone wonder if they will ever balance that frustration.  This is a great book and since again, I found it at Amazon.







A Place To Call Home by Gil Schafer

This designer comes right out of the pages of Traditional  Home and Town and Country.  His style is a mix of classic and cottage.  And I love a mix as I can't define my style other than that.  What I lack, and hope to achieve as I update and decorate the last bit of our home, is to add some antique pieces.  My family room is freshly painted and the original hardwood floor will be refinished next month.  The only furniture is a white slipcovered sofa, loveseat, and chair, and one side table which I need to share to describe, it's so beautiful.  So I clearly have some space and I'm thinking along the lines of a few antique pieces of furniture and perhaps a vintage mirror and a painting.  I may do a Turkish or Oriental rug on another side of the room where we used to have a round table and chairs for the kids to do homework. Not sure what to use that space for.  Maybe a desk and a traditional chair to do my writing? 







There is so much sadness and tragedy all around us and the Covid is shattering records.  I have many family members, immediate and extended who have had the virus and luckily pulled through without a lot of medical issues.  The Husband and I have completely isolated ourselves other than our doctor visits.  The kids want to get together outdoors on Thanksgiving morning in our backyard, dressed warmly with the fire pit burning logs.  And of course our traditional mimosas.  I think it's a lovely and thoughtful idea but it really goes against the guidelines and the current spike.  Patience. I heard somewhere that we can celebrate Thanksgiving in July, when the very hopeful vaccines have been approved and put to use.  

I decided to go with the flow of hunkering down in my house, somedays not changing out of the p.j's.  Who's going to drop in?  And I decided to stop damaging my hair with heat appliances, like my handy flat iron to straighten out my natural curls.  So I took a picture.  It looks pretty here but once I sleep on it or get caught in the wind, I have to mist it with water to spring the curls back up, and after three days I have horrific knots from not being able to brush it.  What's a girl to do?

I also started to take better care of my nails, skin, and diet.  Boredom can make you do that.  I'm not a "self care person".  I get bored very quickly while taking a bath and the water gets cold I'm out!  I'm trying to listen to soothing podcasts but always feel I need to be doing something productive~ definitely not what they are used to achieve. I've been doing yoga via streamed classes on the T.V, but I spend the first two minutes fighting off Poppy who thinks I'm on the floor to play with her.  Sometimes I think I'm more content cleaning the stove.    


I pray all of you are healthy as well as your family and friends. Hang tight.  Know family love is in the heart as well as in person.  FaceTime, Zoom.  I started Christmas cards early so I could add a little note to each, something I've hadn't had time to do in years.  We need that expression of love and kindness and who doesn't like something beautiful in the mail?❤️❤️❤️ 

Sending love and prayers πŸ™

Jane