Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A New Years Eve Romantic Dinner

I hope everyone has their New Years Eve plans made and if you are venturing out, no matter where it may be, I wish you a wonderful evening. For those of us staying in, whether it be to watch Dick Clark's New Years Rockin" Eve or that we just aren't that popular anymore, I have created a sumptuous menu for you and yours. I know The Husband and I haven't gone anywhere in years, that's so eighties (and I mean it's the last time we went out!). So plan on putting the kiddies to bed early tomorrow by eliminating any sugar containing food products as of this minute, search around the house for any candles that were not used up during the last power outage, and get out the champagne glasses (juice glasses also work fine). I have a romantic dinner for two that is a easy as it is elegant. Hence, most of these recipes were adapted from my all time favorite book Entertaining Fast and Fancy by Renny Darling. As with any recipe that I may publish, I probably have tweaked it a little (or a lot) so technically I can call it my own. Leave it to me to never leave anything well enough alone. Hey, that's how great cooks are born. But I do give Renny credit, as her appetizer and soup were big hits the first time I made them, but since I tweaked them I must say...well I'll leave well enough alone. Enjoy.

Campari Cooler

A little something to sip while you prepare the appetizers. Feel free to sip until the ball drops if desired.

1 oz. Campari

1 oz. peach schnapps

2 oz. cranberry juice

2 oz. orange juice

1 t. lime juice

7 Up

Pour the first 5 ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake. Strain into highball glass, add a splash of 7Up. Looks cute with a slice of orange floating in it. But who's looking?

Pork Meatballs with Coconut and Apricot Dipping Sauce

This recipe can serve a lot of people. Make the meatballs in advance and save some for the Rose Bowl.

1 lb ground pork

1 egg

3 T grated onion

1/8 t ground ginger

salt & pepper to taste

1 green onion finely chopped

2 slices of bread, crusts removed, soaked in water and squeezed dry

4 water chestnuts, finely chopped

Coconut flakes

Combine first eight ingredients and mix until thouroughly blended. Shape into 3/4 in. balls, roll in coconut flakes, place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 turning twice for 10-15 minutes.

Serve with:

Apricot Dipping Sauce

1 c apricot jam

4 T brown sugar

2 T vinegar

3 T ketchup

Dash of cayenne pepper

In a saucepan combine all ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with toothpicks and meatballs. Sauce can be stored in fridge for one month. Great as a glaze on chicken, maybe during Rose Bowl. Can you tell I'm having fun with these text colors??

Spinach and Rice Lemon Soup

Hopefully you both like spinach. If not, skip to the next course. You will however have to come up with a vegetable on your own as I am omitting one based on all the lovely vitamins you will get from this soup.

1 onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated

4 shallots, finely chopped

2 T butter

4 c chicken broth

2 10 oz. packages frozen chopped spinach

4 T fresh lemon juice

1 c. cooked rice (try the 90 second microwave rice to save time)

salt to taste.

Saute first 4 ingredients in stock pot until onions are soft. Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 5 more minutes. Serve!

Steak Filets

You probably already know how to grill a steak but I call this the Blonde Method and it does not require grilling at all. I think you will find that this filet is more moist and tender than the leading brand of cat food. Ooooh, that was unappetizing. I'll stop trying to be funny and let you cook.

2 4-6 oz. filets

2 T butter

1 T olive oil

Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

Press salt and pepper into all four sides of filets. Heat butter and olive oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add steaks and brown on all sides. Adjust heat level to insure a nice crispness without burning. Reduce heat to low and cook filets 3 minutes for rare. Turn over and cook opposite side 3 minutes. Results amy vary. I suggest you use a meat thermometer. Inserted in the middle of the filet, it should read 140 F for rare, 160 for medium and 170 for well. Let filets rest about 2-3 minutes before serving to seal in juices.

Optional sauce: Add 2 T butter to juices in pan over medium heat. Before butter starts to brown, add approximately 1 1/2 c good red wine (break into the bottle you are going to serve with this tasty meal). Increase heat and scrape up all particles of meat, stirring constantly. Serve when sauce is reduced to a nice degree of thickness. Looks nice poured on plate with filet on top and a few chopped chives sprinkled over.


This is up to you. I happen to like Chocolate Pudding with a dollop of whipped cream and some fresh raspberries on top. The instant pudding is great (or even a Jello Pudding Cup for that matter. My favorite). If you are ambitious, Ina Garten has a great homemade recipe which you can find on the Food Network website.

I hope you can enjoy these recipes, if not tomorrow night, then another time. Please let me know if you have any questions. Have a wonderful and safe New Years Eve. As far as New Years Day, I have one last little concoction you can make when you wake up:

Body & Soul Reviver

Guaranteed to soothe the soul when you awaken from the night before. This is considered acceptable morning fare this day only!

1 0z Branca Menthe (found in fine licquor shops)

1 oz cognac

dash of orange bitters

Pour all ingredients into shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into shot glass. Feel better already??!!

My best to all of you. By the way, I think The Husband and I will be ordering pizza.


Janie (aka Blondie)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas In Naples

Not exactly your average holiday picture! As I mentioned in a previous post, we were spending Christmas down in Naples, Florida where my son Kevin (the golf pro) is positioned for the season. His club here in Chicago is closed for the winter as they frown very much on golfing in the snow. He was sooo excited we were coming to him. So the girls were able to leave leave their boyfriends behind (oh, young love) and I was able to leave my winter wonderland, which wasn't so much of a wonderland the day we left. A blizzard caused a 3 hour delay of our flight but Blondie managed as she can sleep just about anywhere. In fact, I fell asleep on The Husbands shoulder sitting at our gate and when he got up to go for a walk I slumped over on to the shoulder of the man sitting next to me. My kids watched in absolute embarrassment as the man gently nudged me off him and quickly abandoned his seat.
This is the place we stayed, The Vanderbilt Beach Resort, right on the beach. We had a beautiful suite with 2 bedrooms, 2 full baths, a living room, dining room and big eat-in kitchen. The balcony off the living room faced east and The Husband and I had coffee every morning just as the sun came up. In the evening we sat on the balcony facing west and watched the sky turn all shades of pink and blue.

This is the happy golfer and doesn't he look happy, still in uniform but relaxing with his family. That just goes to show you, home is where your heart is.

Blondie on the balcony with her favorite guys! This was Christmas day. I simplified things by making two turkey breasts. We had to use store bought gravy and rolls, but I made homemade dressing and Emily made her famous cream cheese and sour cream mashed potatoes. For dessert we had pumpkin pie (traditional) and key lime pie (regional)!

Abby and Jeff looking out at the ocean beyond the trees...

Four smiling kids minus three french hens...

A trip through the everglades. It's amazing that these funky looking roots are alive and well and have bright green leaves way up high over the swamps.

A luncheon feast at a seaside fish shanty complete with crab cakes, blue crab tails and fried gator chunks, all washed down with cold Corona's. Heaven!

Pelicans everywhere. They flew so close to our balcony I think they would have whizzed by close enough to touch if we hadn't had screens. The first time I saw pelicans flying in Mexico I asked the consierge what sort of dinasours they were (a very blonde moment). However son Kevin topped that when his siblings were recounting the animals they saw on a trip to the zoo Christmas Eve. Jeff said "We fed the zebras" to which Kevin replied "So what". Then Jeff said "And we fed the unicorns" to which Kevin replied "Big deal". OH YEAH!! I might add Kevin is also blonde. Score two. Three if you count me sleeping on stangers shoulder in airport.

The Husband and Blondie on the beach.

Time to say goodbye. We walked on sand instead of snow but we brought back memories of a very special Christmas together as a family. My wish to you, my new and dear friends, that you had Christmas in your hearts wherever you were and wouldn't it be a wonderful world if we could keep a bit of it in our hearts everday?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Sister

That the sky would lift
That I'd find my place
That I'd see your face in the door
And the sun would glint
On a time well spent
On a time that ain't no more

David Gray

Slow Motion

I don't know how to start this other then I miss you. It has been a little over a year since you have been gone. I try not to bring back memories but I am now because I have a place to be myself and to share.

I remember the time you were "babysitting" me and our two younger sisters, We were sitting on the couch and you kept shoving powdered donuts in my mouth to keep me awake. Lol!

And the many times that Dad would have us order a pizza from the "Black family" (that was their last name). They made pizza's from their home in a special oven and we of course were in the middle of nowhere so that's all we had. Dad would fall asleep and we would have to ride the bike 3 blocks to pick up the pizza. No small feat since we had to ride the last block uphill, me on the handle bars, you peddling, and wow, what a fun trip going downhill home, me trying to balance the pizza, you trying to maneuver the brakes!

Fast forward. I lived in a studio apartment in Lincoln Park. After I had my fill of living alone and trying my best to dress like Madonna, (it was the eighties after all!) I came to your house crying my eyes out over a guy who had totally done me wrong. You let me in, made us some tea and you sat listening to me pour out my heart. It was 2:00 a.m. and you had to be at work in the morning, but you comforted me. I will never forget that night.

You were always ahead of the game. I think you did shabby chic before Rachel Ashwell even wrote a book. You scouted antique shops, your home was was a mix of old and new and you loved pictures and paintings of pastel flowers. And what a gardener you were. Your favorite colors were pink and blue. Your flowers thrived as did you, you were always brown as a berry just from your gardening

You had a dry sense of humor, always coming in at the end of something someone would say and we would laugh our butts off. You were a little shy but you had plenty to say, you were just so damn funny.

Just around fall last year you went to the hospital for just a minor problem. 8 hours later you were diagnosed with cancer of the brain, spine, liver and lungs. The picture above, that I keep on my nightstand was taken just 2 weeks before, when you went pumpkin picking in the country. As your daughter would say later; " The woman could not take a bad picture".

Who would know that this was the beginning of the end? How can you pray for a miracle when the odds are so against you? My most heart wrenching moment came when I heard that you asked your doctor, "What will it feel like when I die?"

Just after last Thanksgiving, 2007, I got the call that you were gone. You have never seen Janie move so fast. Out the door, a 45 minute drive done in 20, I met the paramedics as they were coming up the sidewalk and they let me through solemnly. You were propped up in a hospital bed in her living room, looking like you were taking a rest. I held your tiny hands, still warm, cradled your head, your body, wanting never to let go.

How do we deal with loss like this? I watched my mother in her last hours. my mother in law also. I fed my mother through a tube in her stomach and read to her hours at a time when her eyesight failed. My mother inlaw, someone I so worried about accepting me 15 years ago, was also someone I loved so much and had to let go of.

I don't know how to end this. I just wanted it to be an outlet, which is why I started this blog. I don't care who is out there listening right now, I just want everybody, anyone, to know how special you were to me. Losing a sister is like like losing a limb. You go on, but it is so much harder.

I love all of you that visit my blog and I know we are here to lift each others spirits. But I know in my heart we are a sisterhood and I hope that I will be an example that we don't need to hold back on the realities of life.

I so wish everyone a magical and wonderful Christmas. May God bless you and yours and thank you so much for letting me let Leslie's light shine on in spite of a life taken too soon. Don't pity me, she would rejoice in the fact that I have found a place to open up.



Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Anniversay Blondie & The Husband

December 14th The Husband and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary. Wow, what a ride it has been. Some people say that they married their best friend but maybe it sounds frivolous but he became my best friend gradually. Life has so many hills and bumps and detours that sometimes you don't realize right away that this person has indeed become your best friend. And I did realize that eventually. And more. I do know that I was incredibly in love with him after our first date and knew I wanted to be married to him and only him. A short history: I was friends with The H. about two years before we started dating. We were business acquaintances. I first met him in person when his office invited my office to a Cubs baseball game outing. I knew he was my kind of guy when he shook hands with me while his other hand held a can of beer. It was 10:00 a.m. Well, we were tailgaiting at the famous Murphy's Bleachers in Chicago. He didn't stay long after the game or he would've seen me used as a target in the dunk tank back at Murphy's after the game, but it was all the talk amongst the offices. So we came upon each other several times at various functions. He was married to a cute little Irish girl from the Southside and they had two tiny little boys. One day I learned that his wife Patty passed away from breast cancer after a long fight. I was devastated thinking what a nice man he was to have this happen. Months passed and his partner called me one December day and invited me to come downtown. He said The H. was lonely and that I always made him laugh and it would cheer him up. So there you have it. Most of it anyway. I did go downtown and we had lunch in the Empire Room of the Palmer House Hotel (a veeeery ritzy place I must say so myself). The date was December 14, 1985. We both felt that little electric current you feel when you know something is right but we took it slow. I loved Jeffrey and Kevin immediately and we did lots of fun things together as a foursome. So without further ado, we said "I do" on December 14, 1986 (exactly one year to the exact date of our first date-get it??) in the Crystal Room of the Palmer House Hotel. And that is our fairy tale.
We are quite a blended family. You see Mr. H. had already lost both parents. His inlaws, Patty's parents as well as her brothers and sisters were very close to Mr. H. and the boys and they welcomed me into the family with open arms. I will never forget their kindness. I call them my inlaws. And both girls that Mr. H and I had together call the inlaws Nana and Papa (Nana has since passed away).

So that is our love story. It wasn't as easy as I make it sound. I stopped working after I had Emily and by the time I was 30 I had 4 children under the age of 10. Whoo! But I DID IT!! I love this man with all my heart, he is kind and affectionate (he always wants to hold my hand everywhere we go) and is sooo funny. He is extremely intelligent and successful (if not handy, but I guess they don't have a course on that in law school!!) So read on:

A picture of me and the boys shortly before The Husband and I got married. (No, it was not before color film was developed!) We got on marvelously and I love looking at pictures when they were so young. You just want to eat them up!

Emily Elizabeth arrived in 1987 and that is when everything broke loose. It should have been an omen. She was a baby that cried day and night, as a toddler, would not sleep in her crib and cried everyday before preschool. On the other hand she was my right hand man, we went everywhere together (or I took her everywhere) and she was very tied to me. As she grew up she was very opinionated and stubborn, but she had a shy side and preferred to do solitary things. She was also very creative and ingenious, she taught me how to work a computer when she was just eight. Now she is studying interior design and I am sure she will thrive in a career where within she can channel all her intelligence and creativeness. And of course, she is still my best friend.

And then there were four. Little Abigail arrived in April of 1991, three weeks early, weighing a whopping 5 lbs. 1 oz. She was totally healthy and was a very mild, gentle baby. She smiled at everyone and was such a joy to be with. She is our sporty one, basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and cheerleading. She is considering college choices for next year and is torn between St. Ambrose University in Iowa or Western Illinois University which is near the Illinois/Iowa border. I am savoring these next nine months. By the way, she takes after her father who is French (all that dark hair!).

And finally, this is our Christmas card for 2008. Clockwise form upper left, Kevin, Jeff, Abby and Emily. We have been so blessed in so many ways. I thank my lucky stars that I met the man of my dreams and that he would fulfill them beyond my expectations. We are truly best friends in every sense of the word. Together I hope that we have instilled in our children values and principles that they will carry with them throughout their lives. I love spending my life with these extraordinary people and can't wait for more adventures, love and laughter. I once read that the journey is the destination. I'm all for that!! See ya all! xoxo

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree

We woke up Saturday morning bright and early (5:30 a.m.) the day of out Christmas Cocktail Party and took our coffee in to the living room and sat looking around. The room was bare. Devoid of any holiday decorations whatsoever. Procrastinating Blondie spent yet another Friday night cuddled up with the dogs watching the Food Network chefs doing their Christmas thing. Poor Mr. Tree was still tied to the top of my car. Anytime the dogs barked during the night I was convinced someone was trying to make off with it. I was so proud that I went to the nursery and got this tree on my own. Usually The Husband and I go together and by the time I find a tree I like he already has one tied to the car! So finally said Husband dragged the poor thing in and did the lights. Then I proceeded to do the rest. Needless to say, I was just coming out of the shower when our first guests arrived for said party. And what a party! I advised The Husband that I had heard all parties should have a Signature drink. So we had Mojitos. Wow!! What a hit (in more ways than one!). The little blonde elf was so exhausted from her decorating antics all day that she just stayed slumped in a chair sucking on the strawberries from her Champagne and nodding in agreement to all that was being said. That's the thing about having your own party. You can't leave! I would've gone and curled up on my bed but someone might have found me when they went to get their coat. It was fun though and I recovered Sunday night curled up on the couch under a big quilt watching Lifetime holiday movies with just the twinkling Christmas tree lights. The following is some of my elfish work.
The living room unveiled! In spite of the frantic rush to get things done for the party, the blonde summoned up some of her left brain creativeness and here we are! I refrained from my usual habit of putting ugly ornaments in the back because this tree was so big! She might be asking "Do I look fat in this?).

I agonized over how to make my "mantlescape". I wanted simplicity and elegance. So, I layered evergreen and white pine branches and then came up with the brilliant idea of adding fruit as they did back in the day sort of to economize. So I have apples and pears and clementines and lemons. Then I found a few bags of imitation cranberries in one of my boxes and voila! I had to put in my Christmas geese and I used cake plates to put candles on so I wouldn't have a fire in and out of the fireplace! The canvas prints above are from The French Garden House. I hope Lidy is visiting today!

Oh, and who in Chicago can forget that wonderful store Marshall Field on State Street. When I worked downtown a few years ago, my desk was at a window that looked out at the corner of Washington and State and that big green clock on the Fields building. I used to practically drool waiting for my lunch break so I could go over and and practically turn comatose looking at all the makeup and purses and shoes and...Well, it's now called Macy's but I have my little green shopping bag to remind me of that great place .

I love looking at the old ornaments on my dad's tree that bring back so many warm and fuzzy memories. I found these reproductions at the Vermont Country Store (you can find it online). My dad has the real thing!

Does anyone remember these sweet little candle choir singers from way back?? I remember them from when I was a little girl. My mom would never burn them and neither will I. Once again I found them at the Vermont Country Store.

And finally this little folk art Santa pillow that I cross stitched and sewed back in 1995. Hard to imagine that I made six of them with four little monsters running around. They take center stage on my tree.

Well that is about it for today. We are expected to have a ice storm starting this afternoon. Say a prayer for all those out on the roads here. I hope you all visit again for the trials and tribulations of Blondie. Peace

Friday, December 5, 2008

Designing a Kitchen

I am designing a kitchen. I started yesterday and will be done tomorrow. No, I am not an architect or designer, but my lake house is being renovated and I must have all my ideas and plans ready by tomorrow when we go up there. Our carpenter/jack of all trades has moved on to the inside of our home (literally and figuratively, as he is staying there) after completing major work outside. Once I learn how to post pictures I can go into more detail on all that we have done. But he is now ready to tear down the drop ceiling in the kitchen and install the stone flooring we picked out and the rest is up to me. The Husband and I made a deal that I could have the kitchen if he could have the upstairs bath. Deal done. We gave Emily, our interior design student/daughter the downstairs bath and laundry room (I'm sure she will select everything from Pottery Barn!). So even though I am in a rush, I'm pretty prepared as Better Homes and Gardens and Cottage Living are my bibles. I have seen that white kitchens are making a big comeback and anyone that knows me knows I have color phobia. I just like to have a neutral background and make color pop with accessories. The fact that I can change things around alot that way makes me feel quite daring! I redid this kitchen when we first moved in 17 years ago. I painted the dark cabinets white, put in a hardwood floor and hung cheery yellow and white checked wallpaper. Sheer white valances dressed the sunny windows. Since this was my "second" home, I felt I could take more chances. I would have liked to keep the kitchen this way except the work on the ceiling is going to tear up the wallpaper so I am starting over. I am having the upper cabinets removed and white open shelves put up. I am going to have a farmhouse sink and subway tile backsplash. The lower cabinets are going to be painted a gray green, the color is called "Sage Gray". I don't know yet what sort or color of countertops to go with, nor what to introduce as a complimetary color so if anyone has ideas please let me know. I believe the counters go in last. Tomorrow I will take "before" pictures. After we make the stop at the house (we can't stay because of all the drywall dust) we are going on to South Haven, Michigan to a place we love to stay at called the Old Harbor Inn. It sits on the Black River which flows out to Lake Michigan. South Haven is a quaint little town with streets of antique and gift shops. It will only be about 20 degrees out but I've never been there in December to see all the Christmas decorations. I'm sure all the shops will have warm cider and cocoa (yum) to warm us up. I hope to find some Christmas gifts, ornaments and maybe a thing or two for the new kitchen.
I hope everybody has a great weekend and stays warm, if only in your heart:).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Staying Grounded

I find it nice to know that I am not the only one going crazy getting ready for the holidays (misery loves company?). But I am also noting from reading some of my favorite blogs that many of you have incredibly innovative ideas. I'm convinced though that I have to start early, say in June. How else can I possibly wrap all my gifts in robins egg blue paper with a brown satin bow (very popular color combo this year) with a handmade gift tag out of velvet with the name embroidered on in calligraphy? I lay on my bed at night reading my stacks of magazines and I see things like matching your gift wrap to your room's decor. And bows. I love bows but when one travels during the holidays, how does one keep the bows from smashing when the gifts are stacked sky high? And how to make your own placecards? Who uses placecards anymore? I mean the gall of someone telling you where you have to sit! I suppose the royals still do it in England. Princess Diana would be seated next to Colin Powell and that would make for very interesting conversation as each learned they were polar opposites. No, that's not true. Di was very much an ambassador for peace and Colin always looked amazing in kahki green And then you would have Prince Charles seated next to Madonna and he could warn her never to marry a Brit. But I was thinking about all these pretty placecards you can make and as you may know from my last psychotic blog-we are having a holiday cocktail party next Saturday and I thought maybe I could make some of these lttle darlings for said party. However, I went overboard on the inviting people part (I think I know that lady from the produce department at the grocery store..oh well, I'll know her better after next Saturday) and so it will definately be standing room only. And then a lightbulb went off, I don't know alot of the people invited (albeit Grocery Store Lady) so maybe I could improvise on the pretty placecards and add a little doublesided tape...voila, nametags! After all, the Husband is inviting all sorts of new people from work, I invited some new people in my neighborhood, and it's been so long since I had a holiday party I don't remember the names of the people at my last one. Well, some of the relatives. Anyway, that would be great. Great for people who forget names as well. I know I have been calling the Husband's secretary Linda for the last eight months and just found out it was Wendy. I don't know why she went along with it. Maybe she likes the name Linda. So anyway, there you have it. "Harry" smashed up against "Mary" chatting away like crazy because for years they have avoided one another because they couldn't remember each others names!! Anyway, I gleaned a few other party ideas from my mags while I was all snuggled up in bed last night (Do you guy's know it is only 22 degrees here in Chicago?). However procrastination is my only problem. I think I am so addicted to magazines not only because I get five in the mail everyday (suscribe to one and you will get incredible offers on the rest) , but because I get all these neat crafty ideas and I feel like I have already accomplished something! Having the idea is almost as exciting as the doing part! Sadly, I mark the page and then the magazine gets inadvertantly thrown out. Or I rip out the article and promptly misplace it. Or I put the article in my daily planner and I find it six months later. Well maybe I will get invited to a really posh party and my placecard will be next to Martha Stewarts. I can clue her in on how I organize my address book by the persons middle initial! Have a great day and stay warm:)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Taking a Moment to Breathe

I really wish that I had taken more than one yoga class. I wish I had read more of the book I bought on meditation. I wish I had saved that article in Redbook on deep breathing for relaxation. But I didn't. So now I am sitting in the aftermath of the Thanksgiving holiday, the remains of what my guests left behind. The tablecloth and napkins have not made it into the wash, my roaster is sitting on the stove, clean, but not stored away. I have leftovers I think I need to toss but as soon as I do, someone will be asking me why I threw away something they were craving all day. Personally, I like to make something new with leftovers. But everyone just keeps picking, warming up platefuls of cold turkey and dressing, making sandwiches and nibbling on leftover pie. I can't wait for it to be gone and my fridge is back to order, no crumbs or unsightly plastic storage bags filled with things that look to be for a science experiment. However, once I clear this refridgerator out, it's going to be quite bare since I had to clean it out to fit my 21 pound bird and all the goodies for the trimmings in it.
Well back to the deep breathing issue. I feel ridiculously anxious. Why now, you ask, the holiday is over? I guess it's that feeling of things coming to a standstill. For a week (or more if you count all the clean-up fix-up projects I had) I have been running around like crazy to get everything ready, make everything perfect. And it was. Right down to the turkey coming out of the oven 3 hours before dinnertime. Yes, the opposite of our worst fear. Blame it on my lack of knowledge of my convection oven. Oh well, the warm gravy made up for the room temperature bird. So here I sit, the usual Monday morning mess around me; newspapers, half empty bowls of oatmeal, stray socks and shoes...oh yes, the breathing thing. What does one do when all that adrenaline runs out? What brings back that frenetic energy? What fills that empty space in our minds that usually says "go, go, go, move it!"? Have I become lost without that drive to plan, prepare, create, worry, despair ? This past weekend I didn't do much. It is very cold here in Chicago and we had some snow last night. The husband and Abby and I sort of lounged around in sweatpants reading, nibbling here and there and keeping the fire going in the fireplace. Even the dogs didn't want to go out. Well that was lazy and decadant. But now it's like the calm after the storm. I'll clean up the half empty oatmeal bowls, throw out 3 days worth of newspapers, maybe take a long hot bath and dream about...blank. Okay, the Redbook article is coming back, breathe in slowly through the nose deep into your abdomen and slowly out through pursed lips. Ahhh! Well we have Christmas in 25 days. I probably have close to 15 boxes to carry up. We need to go out for a tree before all the good ones are gone. My little Christmas Village has grown considerably and that can take hours to arrange. Abby has a Christmas dance next Friday and we'll need to go for a dress and shoes. We are having a cocktail party on the 13th and I have no idea what I will serve. And of course other people will be having parties and the invitations will start pouring in and, oh yes, doing my Christmas cards! I nearly forgot that 3 hour ordeal. Hey wait a minute, I feel a little panic! What could this be? Adrenaline? Newly found energy? No time for this deep breathing stuff. I've got to run.

A quick quote that makes me smile inside:

"Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings"

Victor Hugo
(French Writer)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Blessings

I haven't much time today so I will mke this brief. As I prepare for this holiday I am keeping positive thoughts and taking my sweet time with everything because I am determined not to fuss this year. As I go about my plans I am thinking of all I am grateful for. (Do you keep a Gratitude Journal? It is truly an uplifting feeling to write all the good things in your day and thank God for his grace and the light that shines on you.) I am grateful for my husband and children. Adjectives cannot describe these people in my life that I have been blessed with. I am grateful for the roof over my head and how hard my husband works to provide for us. I am blessed with good health and a happy disposition, a sunny outlook on life, a heart bursting with love for all things. There is so much more but I have to end now. I want to make Thanksgiving a wonderful day for my family and friends and I promise not to fuss. It is the love in the room as we sit down for our feast and the light that shines upon us all that I have the most gratitude for. God bless you all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Following My Own Advice

Hello Monday. A day to loathe for some, a day to start off running for others. Grrr...The best laid plans of mice and men oft times go astray and they are for me today. Got my holiday plans organized on paper but it is already 2:00 and I have no more than thrown a load of clothes in the wash and showered. Tried to fit some sweaters in drawers and decided to pack away the summer stuff. Can't pack that stuff up too tightly as we are spending Christmas in Naples. Florida, that is. Son number 2 is a golf pro down there for the season and couldn't get the time off so we are going to him. It is sort of a relief as we now don't have to make the frenetic rounds of family visiting and socializing. Bah humbug you might say of me, but as much as I would like to say that I'm cool as a cucumber with all the entertaining, gift buying, wrapping, cooking, baking, yada yada...I'm not. I get weird. I want to start shopping in August, but no, I'm a mall rat starting the second week of December. I do a little shopping downtown, but then it's just getting caught up in the merriment of the season; the beautiful decorations and lights on State Street, the gorgeous window decorations, the carolers and corner musicians, even the Salvation Army volunteers with their bells and pails bring a tear to my eye. But oh then, to pop into a warm, dark wooded pub and have something warm and fuzzy and alcoholic. Bliss! Let's stay awhile and take a late train home! That said, the husband and I are going to buy the children small gifts to bring to Naples. By small I mean something that can hide in a suitcase. Once there we can do more shopping. We are staying in a little resort on the ocean and we have the whole set up, kitchen, dining room, living room, bedrooms. So we are going to get a real tree and lights and hang some type of adornments on it. Coconuts? And I will make the traditional dinner. Not everyone is taking this whole change of tradition well. Emily is worried about the dogs being boarded, Abby thinks our Christmas tree at home will get lonely, Jeff is worried that we won't have a big screen television to watch sports on and Kevin...well he's just looking forward to an enormous turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
Well I went a little astray with what I started out on. My To Do List goes on and on and I have 3 more days to get this house in shape. I wonder what I have been doing the past couple of weeks knowing that company would be coming now. Curtains to be washed, book shelves organized, just so much clutter everywhere. I'm a clutter person, but I thought I did it in an organized way. Wrongo. And all the magazines advise against stressing yourself out over the small details. Well if your not going to stress out over them now, when will you?? These are things to be addressed sooner or later and why was I lying about reading this useless advice instead of DOING something??? Well, I'm going to started. Oh, FYI. Martha Stewart advises to take the turkey out of the freezer today to defrost in the fridge by Thursday. Goes to show you I do glean a little info from my magazines. Then again all Martha has to do is go out into her yard for a fresh bird. See ya!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Quiet Sunday (cont'd)

Had to stop. As is with the revolving door on my semi-empty nest. In spite of this quiet day and my small interruptions, ideas for the holiday plans swirl in my head. At some point I will get out my 3 x 5 cards and write down my ideas; plans, menu, decor, shopping lists, chores, fix-ups, etc., and then start the shuffling game; putting the cards in order by priority, making additions and deleting, crossing things off when finished (a good feeling!!). I once played a little reality game with myself when I felt overwhelmed with things to get done in the house before I could leave to run errands. As some may learn over the course of time, I can be quite stringent about certain things and totally relaxed about others. One thing, I can't leave a messy home behind me. I don't want to come home to it. I don't need to face anything energy draining or routine after I have been out and about and having fun. So... I timed myself: 7 minutes organizing the kitchen. Loading dishwasher, sanitizing counters and emptying garbage. Oh, and feeding dogs. Next, making living room orderly, putting away diregarded clothing, shoes and items, dusting up ashes from fireplace, general fluffing. 5 minutes. Bathrooms-easy. Good old bottle of disenfectant and paper towels stored under sink. Squirt, clean, rinse, clean towels, voila! 3 minutes. Master bedroom. This is hard and will be expounded on in future blogs. The hubub of the family. Think big old four poster bed, stacks of books and magazines, television and clickers, soft, comfy quilts and pillows, two sleepy, snuggling critters. Oh, bliss. Some say I live in my P.J's. Why not in a retreat like this? Anyhow, takes a while to make up the bed with all the linens and pillows. And this is a big priority for me as instilled by my mother. We were absolutely required to clean our rooms after breakfast. A made bed was a happy Mum and so now for me. Anyway, a good 10 minutes for this. Now I stop. Forget the rest. These rooms are the most lived in rooms and must be ready for my return and will undoubtedly get unruly again. However, my point is, once broken up by time, you will find that chores looming in front of you rarely take the enormous amounts of time you imagine. And when you see it is all routine and you can bounce from one thing to the next without diversion, you can then move on about your day without a hitch. Try this in all you do. Break down the time it takes to do the umseemly chores in increments instead of lamenting of all of it over your 5th cup of coffee. Tried and true. Ask Blondie. A quote:

"Devote each day to the object then in time and every evening will find something done."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Love this because there is a gorgeous street in Chicago named Goethe. Ha Ha.

A Quiet Sunday

Very quiet day here. Awoke and husband had already gone off to work. Normally he is zipping through the newspaper so he can be ready to watch the Bears game at noon. He is however ready to sign a lease on a new office building downtown and hads loads of paperwork. Wandering around with my coffee I wondered, is this what an empty nest will feel like?? The only sounds , being the dogs snoring contentedly, the bird making an occasional psychotic squawk, the hum of the fridge and the usual old house creaks and groans. Jeffrey, son number one, popped in about noon still wearing the tux from the wedding party he was in yesterday. Not much to say, just grabbing up his things he left here yesterday before changing. Actually had a Mummy moment then, helping him with his tie. So off he went today, I' m sure to climb into his bed for a day or two to sleep off the party. Emily, daughter number three, has been unseen. She is the one I refer to as half out of the nest (maybe I need to give her a little nudge). She and Mikey have been an item since last New Years. She pretty much lives with him (and his mom and dad and brother...) but it is only a few blocks away and ironically, next door to her grandfather. Imagine, practically growing up next door to the love of your life and never thinking more than "yuk" when coming upon one another. Anyway, she will show up some time today to grab her homework and get ready for classes tomorrow. She is almost half through with interior design school. Always the creative one. Have to run for now. Will be back.