Friday, August 29, 2014


So Layla may represent how I've felt these past few days, but actually, this is the mode she goes into when Tulo comes to visit, as he and son Jeff did today.  Yes, I had a visitor!  We sat on the patio and had coffee while Tulo and Milo wrestled in the grass.  Tulo is twice the size of Milo, but The Mi is very muscular and strong, and he's the "older and wiser" of the two so he dominates.  Very nice morning.  Rain is predicted later today and all weekend.  I'm starting to just ignore that little weather app on my phone, it's never right.  And the last big bang at the lake?  Almost everyone had to back out for various reasons.  MC's family is preparing for a baby shower for sister Katie, which I will be going to next weekend.  Another group of the family are doing some major landscaping during their time off from work.  And the rest, I shooed them off to do other fun just has to be all of us, our big jolly family group!  I am suggesting a big fall get~together to go apple and pumpkin picking, and have bonfires...make some S'mores.  Yes!

I made the Tomato Tart as I spoke of in my last post.  It was absolutely delish!  The Pioneer Woman is very laid back and offers many options when she posts a recipe.  She used small orange cherry type tomatoes in her recipe which are very cool.  If you've ever roasted small tomatoes, they are so good when they've popped!  So I am going to give you the low down on how I prepared this so you don't have to jump from link to link.

Saute 2 large onions, cut in half and then sliced, in 4 T butter. Keep the heat very low, be patient and let them caramelize, about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile slice your tomatoes...I just used my big old red ones.  You want about 3 cups.  Grate three or four different cheeses to equal 2 cups. I used Swiss,  Fontina, Monterey Jack and Parmesan.  These cheeses really make the tart.  The prepared pie crust is pressed into a sheet pan (I'll get to that), I used a large one and 4 of us ate only half of it.  So use a half sheet pan or 2 pie or tart pans (these would actually be prettier).  Sprinkle the cheese on in one layer, then the onions and finally the tomatoes.  I sprinkled some S&P on over that and about 2 t. garlic powder.  Brush the pie crust edges with a little egg/milk mixture and pop in the oven at 450 for about 15~20 minutes.  Shred some fresh basil over the top when you take it out.  Then let it sit for 5 minutes before you slice it in squares.  

The pie crust is something I am saving for last because 1)  I LOVE making pies in the winter, and 2)  You can freeze the dough!  Yay!  Can you imagine making your dough all in one swoop and then pulling it out of the freezer anytime you want to fling together a pie, quiche or tart?  And this crust is tasty!!  It was sent in to Rhee by a blog reader and she wholly recommends it.  Here it is:

1 1/2 c Crisco Vegetable Shortening
3 c flour (I like King Arthur)
1 whole egg
5 T cold water
1 T white vinegar
1 t. salt.

Start with your Crisco and flour.  Cut them in together with one of those dough cutters or use two knives like I do.  When it's nice and crumbly, add the rest of the ingredients.  Here is where I jumped the gun.  I thought the dough looked too wet so I added another tablespoon of flour.  No, no, no.  It will be fine.  I later had to add in water because it was cracking as I rolled it out.  Knead it on a flour covered surface, separate into 3 balls, flatten and pop into freezer bags and into the freezer.  For this recipe you will use all the dough after 15 minutes in the freezer.  If you are a smart cookie, you can just keep on making dough to your hearts content (since you've already made a huge flour~y mess on the counters and floor).  Then you'll be all set when those apples and pears and figs and whatever come in season this coming month! :)

One last thing, because I was going on and on with the recipe, and some of you might have just skipped over it, if you have a ton more tomatoes as I do, toss them in a big pot of boiling water.  When the skin starts to crack, scoop them out into a strainer, let them cool, peel them and pop them into freezer bags.  You can chop them up beforehand as well.  Then you have a good months worth of tomatoes for sauce, salsa, chili, however you like them.  Maybe a tomato tart? :)

Have a great and safe holiday weekend!

Jane xx

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


My next door neighbors (at the lake) went away for a few days and told me to help myself to anything in their veggie garden.  I had a ball!  They must have 30 tomato plants.  This is from one picking!  And I have tons of green beans that I blanched and froze.  I've canned before, I used to make red sauce and salsa and my own version of V8 Juice, but I've found that you need a lot of tomatoes to yield a few jars.  I found a recipe here for a tomato tart so I'm going to give it a whirl today.  I've also been slicing them up to have with lunch and last night I made a mix of tomatoes, green pepper and zucchini, along with some herbs and a butter/bread crumb topping that I baked in the oven.  It was very good.  

We got home from our week at the lake on Friday night and were up early Saturday morning to head to Madison, Wi.  It wasn't hard to do at all since my bag was packed and all I had to do was switch out some clothes.  It was about a three hour drive from Chicago.  We were meeting Cindy and Dan from Applestone Cottage and they chose a restaurant on Capitol Square where we had a beautiful view of the Capitol Building.  A huge farmer's market was going on and there were so many enticing shops and restaurants.  As you can see it was pouring rain and of course, we didn't have umbrellas.  :(

We met Cindy and Dan at a restaurant called The Old Fashioned Tavern & Restaurant.  It was delicious, with a wood burning grill and a huge selection of Wisconsin's famous beer.  It was so great to see Cindy again, we get together once a year you know, last fall we were in Cedarburg, Wi.   The rain ultimately put a damper (!) on things.  After lunch we managed to make it down about 2 streets, ducking into pubs and shops to dry off a bit.  Cindy took me into one of her favorite shops called The Soap Opera where I bought three fancy little guests soaps that smell incredible.  And that was my one and only purchase on the whole trip!  The Husband was a happy man.  

Now on to some general rambling.  :)

I'm lonely.  Sad, listless and lonely.  The Husband and Abigail are at work all day now and I pace around looking for things to do.  Since it has been raining and storming for days on end, I've only gotten a little weeding in and not much else.  I have to schedule the carpet installation and finish disassembling the family room.  I'm in no hurry because I will just be skirting around things piled up in various rooms until I schedule.  And I have no idea who is going to help The Husband move the heavy furniture or where it's going to go, but I have decided to isolate myself from that problem.  Don't you love that?  That's my new way to deal with stress...mentally isolate myself from things.  It works!  And in addition to the above, all of the wires and gadgets to the TV and Computers have to be unhooked so of course I don't want that to happen until the last thing left to be done.  Sigh.

Daughter Abby got a teaching job at a new school and started the next day.  She was elated!  She got the phone call an hour after her interview.  She is teaching sophomore (10th grade) English at a high school.  This academy is just two years old and the pictures she has shown me are incredible.  All glass and stone and landscaping...very different from the very old schools that she has taught at here previously.  She came home after her first meeting with the department and announced happily, "I have to wear the uniform  blazer everyday and there is a teacher's lounge with a Keurig machine.  Squeal!"  Well, the blazer will cut down on adding to her work wardrobe although I did help fund a trip to Banana Republic. She does have a long day though, she's up at 5:00 a.m. and home at 5:00 p.m.  I've taken pity on her and I straighten up her room and bathroom every morning (I have nothing else to do).  The Husband thinks I'm crazy but I think if I do this for awhile, maybe she will realize that everything goes more smoothly if you are organized.  Maybe not.  And I have too much time on my hands.  I'm seriously thinking about joining the university gym again so you know I'm desperate.  

Have I mentioned that I invited a small group of family members up to the lake for the holiday.  Oh, maybe just 15 or so.   Why do I do this stuff???  Actually, after spending a whole week there, I get everything so spic and span I just felt like entertaining!  One last hurrah, as it were.  The Husband and I will have plenty of quality time up there this fall, it's just magical then.  But for now it's still hot and sunny and ripe for swimming and boating and making sand castles.  :)

Okay, a trip to the store for the tart ingredients and then some packing up these rooms.  Have a great holiday weekend if I don't get back and thanks for visiting!


Thursday, August 21, 2014


Sunday night we headed out to a new restaurant on Fish Lake.  It was excellent.  It's not always easy to find a good steak or tasty pasta in the wide open country so I think we'll be back to this place.  We arrived back at the ranch, made a fire in the chimnea and sat back to listen to the bull frogs and look at the stars.  And then Ella peeked out the patio door and said, "Aunt Jane, there's a bird in the house."  I thought, okay, that's happened.  I told her I would be in in a second to take care of it.  And then it occurred to me..what sort of bird do you have flying around at night?  "Oh, Ella...what does the bird looks like?"  She replied, "It's big and black."  Okay, Red Alert.  The Husband ran for the fishing net and we cautiously came in.  Snow and Ella were cowering on the settee while the menacing flying rodent swooped here and there.   The dogs were barking at the sight of The Husband frantically running like a mad man with the fishing net, and of course the bat was swooping high and low and whizzing past our covered heads. Thankfully, after about ten minutes, The Husband was able to snag it.  I wish I could say all was well, but I knew, deep in my heart of hearts, that the creepy little monster had not just swooped in through an open door.  He (and his many friends and relatives, I'm sure) have a way in and a way out.  Probably in the stone wall around the fireplace or perhaps in a crevice near the attic.  Our house has settled and shifted so much on this marshy ground, anything is possible.  Since that night we haven't been terrorized by any more, but I have to get an exterminator out.  We've had them in the attic before and they just smoke them out...very humane.  

As if we didn't have enough excitement that night, I awoke about 5:00 a.m. to get a glass of water.  I was sort of puzzled that Layla didn't follow me to the kitchen.  When I got back into bed, I felt around for her under the blankets.  No sign of her.  I tried to quietly call for her without waking up the house...but no Layla.  I actually peeked in The Miller's room thinking maybe Ella had coaxed her in, but again, no Layla.  I did get to see Craig in his boxers and I'm trying to get that image out of my mind.  Finally I went outside.  The doors were unlocked...typical men.  They had come to bed hours after we girls.  All I could think was somehow Layla had gotten out.  I walked around the yard and stood in the driveway calling her name.  Michiana Trash & Recycling drove by and waved.  Yes, there I was in my ragged pink jammies and hair sticking up all over.  I went back inside with my heart in my throat and into the bedroom to get dressed.  Obviously I'd have to search, whether along the lake or down the road.  North and south and east and west.  By then The Husband was up and wandering around outside calling her as well.  And then I heard something like a was hard to tell since I can't hear that well, I looked towards our bed and I saw the blankets moving.  I pulled the quilt off the bed and saw a lump down near the floor at the end of the bed.  I pulled back the top sheet and there she was like a ladybug on it's back trying to turn over, caught between the half pulled out top sheet, a hammock of sorts. And stuck swaddled on her back!  She must have just rolled off the bottom of the bed and the tucked in sheet caught her!  I nearly cried in relief!

So that was my wonderful Monday morning.  It then proceeded to rain 2 straight days.  Comcast came out and you'll never guess why I haven't had Internet since May.  I got a new laptop and apparently you are supposed to change your network and password.  Oh joy.  So I'm back in the game.  Well except for at home...that's a whole different issue, but I'll try to keep my problems in check by locale if anything. 


These are some of the flowers.  Yellow coneflowers.

I can barely hold my eyes open but I haven't posted for over a week.  We are going home tomorrow and then we're off to Madison, Wi., bright and early Saturday morning.  Then it's back to reality and trying to figure out where to put three rooms of furniture while we  have the carpet put in.  Maybe I should just stay here a bit longer...bats and all. ;-)


Tuesday, August 12, 2014


So here's Layla hanging out on the swing.  It's a shame that I have to keep her on a line.  She has access to the garden where she likes to sleep in the sun or eat bugs, and then she can move on to the patio in the shade and even jump up on a chair if she wants.  She's like my baby, I know when to move her back into the house for a little nap on the couch (her not me!), and sometimes I put her in the screened Summerhouse and she feels like she's sort of part of the action.

It was a quiet weekend on our part of the lake, none of our neighbors were up, hence, no other dogs.  Milo actually stayed on our property and followed me around out of boredom I think.   I spent the morning cleaning up.  The last time we were there we had my DIL's family up, a very full house.  There were folded blankets and pillows everywhere.  Sheets and towels to wash and I could feel the gritty sand under my bare feet everywhere.  So I did that for a long time, watered my new landscaping in the front (everything is doing so well!), and then spent the later part of the afternoon and evening chilling.

And while we are on the subject of birds, I have so had it with these sparrows here at home.  I filled the birdfeeder the other day, which is no small feat as I have to climb on a chair and try to grab it as it swings back and forth.  So I filled it and later that afternoon it was almost empty and most of the seed was on the ground.  I had what looked like hundreds of sparrows on and around the patio.  So, as it happens, there was an article about "House Sparrows" in one of those lake newspapers  pictured above.  They can be quite a nuisance and aggressive toward other birds.  I was lamenting about this to my next door neighbor, Susie, she is very knowledgeable on the subject of birds.  She feeds them as well as hummingbirds and know a great deal about our feathered friends.  I asked her if it would be a detriment to feed the birds at the lake knowing that it won't last into the winter.  She doesn't think so...I just don't want any starving birds once we start to come up less.  So I am going to pack up my feeder and seed and bring it all north!!  I may even get one or two more at Home Depot this week as I'll only be there to feed them on weekends.  I'm wondering if this will make enough food to go around or if it will just attract more birds.  And just so I don't neglect those feisty little sparrows, I'll keep some seed here to toss out to them in the morning.  

I have a bad habit of buying books on my Nook and having them in my "library" and then forgetting about them.  Actually you can reserve books on your wish list and I should do that.  Anyway, I was visiting Vicki at Life In My Empty Nest last week and she was talking about this book.  Vicki is a voracious reader much like myself.  The cover rang a bell and sure enough, it was in my "library".  This is a memoir about a young woman who suffers several huge blows in her life and feeling there is nothing left to lose, decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to upper Washington state, alone.  With no experience she sets out to try to piece her life back together.  Over 1,100 miles on foot, alone.  This book has really been taking off and the author was recently interviewed by Oprah on her OWN channel.  I was able to download it and I am just in awe of this writer and her story, her courage and her incredible writing.  I'm halfway through and as always, I never want a good book to end.

I know a lot of us look back on our lives, maybe sometimes marveling at the things we did in our twenties or thirties; trips we took alone, places we dared to go, just solitary adventures and experiences for which we didn't need or want a partner, whether it be a best friend or husband.  In the past few years I've watched my children begin to flap their wings and fly off making nests of their own, having wonderful new experiences. In a very real way, I feel my wings have been clipped, and surely by my own doing.  I was/am so far removed from my past and the things I did without thinking twice.  I don't take a lot of chances anymore, I don't seek out many new adventures alone.  I've been surrounded by this fantastic, close knit, loving family of my own here for so long that it hasn't occurred to me that I might have  lost touch with "going it alone".  And I know now I am thinking good and hard about it, because in time, we might not have a choice but to go it alone.

I was up at the lake a few weeks ago.  The Husband had gone to bed.  I was sitting in my rocker in the Great Room reading and at about 10:00 p.m. I decided a glass of wine would be good.  I poured a glass of Pinot and looked in the freezer and there was no ice.  Oh, I have to have ice!  I looked out at the dark patio.  We have another fridge out there and the freezer always has ice in it.  But you know what?  I was scared!  Yes, I've seen raccoons out there.  I've found coyote dung.  I've been swarmed by bats.  And there will always be the LaMunion Brothers from town (another story).  I kept telling myself I was crazy, just flick the lights on and run out.  I felt paralyzed and angry at myself for fearing something I knew was much bigger than an animal... and that it was going to seriously challenge, if not change the independence I  now need and seek in my life.  So I sucked it up, walked down the steps outside with Milo (and that was taking a chance, too, as he could have taken off after an animal and then I would be running through the woods alone!).  I got my ice and forced myself to walk down to the dock.  I stood there for awhile soaking in the moon and stars.  I sat down on the end and let my feet dangle in the warm water.  Milo laid next to me.   I drank my glass of wine.

It was a small step.  I asked myself recently, when was the last time I went to the lake alone?  It would have to be about ten years ago,  Milo was a puppy and I brought him to the vet there in town to be neutered, it was cheaper than the city.  I don't know what has happened to me since.  I told Emily, I want to drive up to the lakehouse during the week when nothing is going on, when nobody needs me.  I'll have the dogs, a bag of groceries and a good book.  I'll take the kayak out on the bay and wear a big straw hat.  I'll eat what I want  for dinner and then make an outdoor fire at night and sit with a blanket on my shoulders until I've had my fill of the moon and stars.  I have to be the captain of my ship.  

A snippet of a review of Wild
"Strayed's journey was at least transcendent as it was turbulent.  She faced down hunger, thirst, injury, fatigue, boredom, loss, bad weather and wild animals.  Yet she also reached new levels of joy, accomplishment, courage and peace..."

Well, I'll leave it at that.


Leaving for the lake again Friday, this time for a whole week.  Yahoo!  Our friends, Craig and Snow are there now for a little vacay and so we will all spend the weekend together before they leave.  I'm so looking forward to some "girl time" with Snow.  I have a tech from Comcast coming Monday so I hope to have the Internet up and running and I will get back in touch! :)


Wednesday, August 6, 2014


We never made our little weekend trip to the lake.  The Husband had a big trial coming up this week and thought he would do some of his work there.  Alas, Internet problems there, too, (hence no blogging from there lately).  So we were stuck at home.  In order not to rip my hair out, I made him take me to dinner Saturday night.  We went to a place I had never been to before called Mart Anthony.  A cool, casual place in an up and coming area in the South Loop.  Great Italian food.  I loved it and we had a really good time.

We have been talking about getting new carpet in our family room and office for what seems like years.  It's the only part of our house that doesn't have hardwood floors, that being because directly beneath it is the crawlspace (yes, the dreaded crawlspace I mentioned's truly haunting me).  The Husband believes the carpet and padding keeps the room warmer and I have to agree.  Finally I found a woman that Emily knows on a Facebook page for area mothers that does the whole carpet deal for you..  So I made an appointment and she was just the nicest lady.  We know some of the same people and love the same area restaurants...I felt like we were good friends.  So anyway, I picked out a very neutral, pretty sort of flat carpet, but very soft.  The price came in and it was sensational.  The Husband had gone to Home Depot and got prices to compare and we are getting such a great deal.  

Well, now is the fun part.  Everything has to be moved out.  They can work around my humongous sofa, loveseat and chair.  The office gives me chills to even think about.  Emily has stuff in there from when she went to school.  I have craft things in there from 10 years ago.  Books are stacked up on the floor and bins are filled with every conceivable thing but what they were intended for.  This is a room that has become what it is because each of us have been afraid to throw out something that is important to someone else.  I am SO not looking forward to this.  And I also have to have our blinds installed.  I picked them up from Home Depot well over 6 weeks ago.  It's free installation.  I don't know about you but I really dislike having someone fixing or installing or doing something in my home.  I have to put the dogs in the basement and then I feel like I'm at odds with what I can do while they are there.  It's irritating.  And for the love of God!  I have 16 windows!  They are going to be here til Thanksgiving!

I do have something to be really happy about.  We have finalized our plans to meet up with my favorite blogger Cindy from Applestone Cottage.  Many of you know that Cindy and her husband Dan have become our good friends since our first meetup in Galena, Illinois.  We absolutely clicked and this will be our 6th year getting together.  We chose Madison, Wisconsin this year.  We live bout 5 hours apart (Cindy and Dan in western Wisconsin) so this year we are closer to their neck of the woods.  One year they drove 7 hours to stay with us at the lakehouse!

So, that's it for today.  I am making ribs on the grill tonight, well actually soon because I think they have to cook slow.  This is my first time doing them on the grill.  I thought about inviting some of the kids (one couple, that is), but I'm worried that they won't turn out.  Isn't that silly?  Actually, it's more about my state of mind.  If it's just The Husband and I, at the lake for instance, I'd just throw those babies on, maybe remember to look at my watch, sit back with a glass of wine and read the lake newspaper while they smoked away.  But with expectations and worries go up.  We'll see.  I still have 45 minutes until I have to get them going!  Ha!

Have a great rest of the week! :)


Friday, August 1, 2014


I love to putter around my garden.  This is "putter" season.  I pull some weeds, I water the pots with my little old watering can, I add some organic food to the lawn and most of all, I sit in the early evening (okay...this is the 'slothiness" part, (I made up that word.), and just watch as the sprinkler moves back and forth, catching beads of sun, and hearing the faint splatter as it showers my plants.  Mesmerizing!  It's a shame we can't hear what falling snow sounds like when it hits the ground in the winter.  What do you imagine it to be like?  Maybe that's the beauty of it...that it's a silent wonder,  For someone like me who only has about 20% hearing left, that's a relief!  I don't want to miss anything else in this life of mine!

Oh, by the way.  This is Tickseed, the feathery kind that gets lots of tiny flowers.  I had some extra from the lakehouse and I planted it here in the city.  Isn't it pretty?

    I saw these coming up and wondered what the heck they were.  I've been known to pull up what I think are weeds only to find they are flowers.  Gulp.  I looked at my graph which has a bird's eye sketch of my yard and all of the things I've planted since 200 B.C. and I didn't see anything in that spot.  Then it bloomed and I declared, "Phlox!"  But nothing on my diagram.  The other day I found a big envelope in my shed in which I keep all the 'sticks" that come with my know, the ones with the name and info, etc.  And I found one for Phlox.  It never made the diagram.  I'm slacking off, but what a nice surprise.  I thought maybe it was a present from the birds!  I get a lot of those.

I love me sprinkler!!  But I only use it on my lawn.  I use it about 2-3 times a week if there is no rain and I let it soak the grass down about an inch and 1/2, or as far as half my index finger can do down and feel moisture.  Again, I'm not an expert, but this works for me.  When we have had a good bit of rain, I am much more stingy with watering.  And I read some advice by the late great Thalassa Cruso, if you plan to be away, like on a vacation and don't have a way to have your lawn watered, wean it off slowly in the weeks before.  Grass can get spoiled! Oh, how I loved this woman...truly the Julia Child of gardening.  Look up her books, I discovered them over 25 years ago.  They are a pretty penny now...collectors items.  She wrote essay style.  A woman after my own heart.

And the last you can see from my picture above, I like to soak my plants,  with just a regular  hose at a medium type of flow.  This is just for my flower beds.  Leaves don't need or want water and the roots need it.  Why waste water?  Of course it takes time to move that hose around.  I have it going while I'm working in the yard and move it periodically.  Try to position the hose so the water puddles around the plant and ideally flows down to another plant.  Double the money.  I really love when I'm sitting out in the evening, the dogs languishing in the cool grass, getting up to move the hose around a bit, knowing it's making those tender roots plump up and say, "ahhhh!"  As you can see, I love my mulch.  It's work to buy, haul in and spread, but it's totally worth it and  not expensive.  I use shredded bark and put it down every spring.  I love that it smothers a lot of weeds, keeps the plants cool and holds that moisture in.  It looks good, too.  I have some beds that are free flowing and natural...and I have some that are very neat and tidy.  The mulch enhances all of them.  Try the soaking method.  You can almost hear that "slurp!" :)

I am switching to my never ending quest to learn how to grill food!  I won't bore you as I think probably 9 out of 10 of you know tons more than me.  But I am a creative cook so this is more of me passing along a few things I tried that worked on the grill.  Pictured above is a salmon filet that serves four.  I just cooked it skin side down with a little blend of olive oil, apricot preserves, green onions and some garlic salt.  Delish.  Close the cover and let it smoke just a short dries out fast.

Something that takes longer and I put it on ahead of everything else, are sliced potatoes.  I cut one potato per person in 1/2 inch rounds, just nice and thick so they don't fall apart.  In a bowl I toss the slices with some veggie oil (it just does better at high heat and browns everything better, but by all means, use the oil you prefer), some S & P, garlic and onion powder and maybe some dried herbs that you like.  Grill about 7-10 minutes per side and stick a sharp knife in the middle to test for doneness.  Oh heaven!  A little sour cream or a few drips of melted butter makes this out of sight when you serve.  As for the rest of my grilling experimentation, slow going.  I only test things on The Husband and he has a penchant for liking most everything.  Ha!


Lastly...Chicago  is hosting the Lollapalooza Festival for the ninth year in a row.  3 days long in Grant Park, it's a fantastic time and draws huge crowds.  Lots of great live music acts and fantastic food.   I haven't been but would love to go one year, I know many who have gone and just loved it!  I'm bringing it up because you may have heard of it.  And we have just been down for the count as a city if you follow the news.  I want to give a shout out for some of the things we are good at, proud of.  Say a prayer that the gun violence, here and everywhere will's very close to home.  I put my faith in our mayor and police department.  I'm not going political on anyone.  Just please say a prayer for all of the innocent people in our city who are facing this violence and the aftermath in these past few month.  Chicago Pride!