Wednesday, October 28, 2015


What a ride it's been with this nasty cold.  I'm feeling much better, not 100% but good enough to get out of bed and out of the house and that makes me feel good.  In fact today was one of those days that I chose to stay in simply because I had no reason to venture out and the weather was truly horrible.  Rainy, cold and windy...we lost leaves on trees we never truly had a chance to enjoy.  This is something I usually expect in November but then again we're foolish if we think we can predict the weather these days.  

I'm happy to report I went out to get a few things to spruce up my porch.  Yesterday was as miserable as all get out much like today but I was on a mission.  I went to Michael's to get some glass jars to store granola (for which I again stocked up on ingredients).  I found these faux weedy flowers that you can barely see in the urn behind my lone pumpkin and the remainder of my salvia (wow, that stuff is hanging on!).  The foliage in front of the little pumpkin is also part of the summer plants.  They're just hanging on.  I couldn't bear to pull it out so I just added the one lone pumpkins and then four small ones on the bay window ledge.  Simple and very inexpensive.  I've had the large pumpkin face clay container for awhile now.  I just pop a big candle in it and it looks so cool at night.   

I bought one mum and plunked it in this old galvanized pail I adore.  This is not a rainbow mum that I made the mistake of getting last year...those different varieties died off randomly leaving a bunch of ugly spots in the plant.  I'm convinced these varieties (above) are the ones that do well in our area and planted together should last about the same time.  And heck, as late as I've been in getting my plants, I only have about 6 weeks to have it on my porch before it's obliterated in snow!  Anyway, it feels good to be celebrating fall and Halloween.  I'm a little disappointed in myself for worrying about lagging behind others, the 'Keeping up with the Jones'" mentality. I really abhor that but I think I was simply lying in bed too long ruminating about things I needed to get done.  We've all done that, right?    I think the porch turned out cute and I really want to make those little munchkins happy on Saturday.  

At some point in the past few days---its all a blur, I brought in my ferns and decided to winter over some geraniums.  I used to do that quite a bit as some geranium varieties are actually sensitive perennials.  They tend to need a lot of water in the dryness of my home and they drop petals a lot (so do the ferns), but if you want to spend the extra time, they are worth saving and are definitely a bright burst of color and summertime happiness on bleak days.  I get a lot of light in this corner of my family room.  It's a happy place now!

Another great dish from Carla Hall in Redbook Magazine, like the granola recipe I wrote about recently.  Unfortunately, I simply can't locate the recipe to give you a link in either the magazine, her TV show or just her name.  So I'll try to give you a quick version and you can Pin it if you want.  

By way of introduction (Ahem...), when I have a cold my go to comfort food is Chinese.  We have a wonderful place just a few blocks away.  My time honored remedy is two fold.  First I order the Spider Maki, a sushi roll with soft shell crab, avocado and cucumber.  The soy and wasabi clear my sinuses while the simple roll is light on the stomach.  I also get an order of Pork Wonton Noodle Soup.  A simple broth with loads of noodles and fat pork dumplings.  A nice crunch and 'sinus opener' is provided by way of the green onions.    I usually have this right before bed to again help with congestion and the carbs make me full and content. :)

So I found this recipe as I rested and perused reading material during my convalescence (I know, very dramatic).  Everything is the same as Carla's, just condensed.  Feel free to Pin.  It's heavenly whether you're sick or not. 

Beef Noodle Soup with Soy & Ginger

1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 T grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced matchstick style
2 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 quart beef broth
3 T soy sauce
1 t toasted sesame oil
S & P
4 oz. noodles (spaghetti, Soba, egg noodle...your choice)

Cook the onion, ginger, garlic and scallions in the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat 5 minutes.  Add the carrots, cabbage and broccoli and cook another 5 minutes.  Pour in the broth as well as 2 cups of water, soy sauce and sesame oil.  Bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper.  Let simmer 10 minutes and add noodles.  Cook 5 minutes or until they are tender.  Serve with a pinch of sliced scallions sprinkled over the top.

This cooks up very quickly as you can see but the chopping takes awhile.  I happen to love chopping, it's relaxing for me.  You may want to prepare the veggies earlier in the day and then the whole soup will go together super quick in time for dinner.  

I've had a lot of fun making treat bags for the little kids that come to my house on Halloween.  I spent the last two mornings working on them while I had my coffee.  110 bags.  I kept thinking, "You need a job, Jane."  We have a huge amount of young families that have moved into our neighborhood and it's alive again after the last generation (as in my kids and their friends) grew up and away.   I see them walking to school in their uniforms, the same my kids wore, and to church as families on Sunday.  The neighborhood is alive again after a little lull. It makes me happy.  And it's weird, maybe not, but Halloween is always a miserably cold and rainy day here without a doubt.  I always plan to sit on the porch and really get into the festiveness but the weather never cooperates and from our current forecast, it's not going to be pleasant on Saturday.  With that in mind, I like making these little bags filled with chocolates and the tart and sweet, bubble gum and stickers, plastic spider and bat rings and creepy crawlers.  I also add some crayons, pencils and erasers. This way I won't have those tiny little indecisive kiddos mulling over the candy with me encouraging them to take more than one... meanwhile their parents patiently standing in the rain, forced smiles on frozen faces!

Finally...thanks for all the well wishes.  Sounds like a lot of you ladies have or have had a bug already this season.  Or know someone with something similar.  I'm happy to have it over with before the holidays.  Emily had a touch of it and I brought her some of my soup last night.  She was back at work today, I don't know if it was my magical soup or her good work ethic.  And, did I mention that daughter Abigail is now the assistant basketball coach at the high school she teaches at?  Go Abby!  And if that's not exciting, son Jeff is planning a 30 day hiking trip along the Pacific Crest next August.  And finally,  my son, Kevin...well, we are trying to convince him and Mary Clare to take a little vacation at our condo in Asheville not only because they could use it but because we would love to have little Elsie in our clutches for a few days!!

So what's new with you guys?  How's Halloween in your neck of the woods?

See all of you soon!

Jane x

Saturday, October 24, 2015


I've come down with a dreadful sort of flu that simply doesn't want to let go.  And it's very odd...a lot of head and chest congestion but no aches or pains otherwise.  The usual sore throat is replaced with nausea.  I can't quite put my finger on it.  But I've been down for the count since Tuesday, only just crawling out of bed this afternoon to join the land of the living but for a brief (and best forgotten spurt of energy on Wednesday).  As you can see from the photo above, I had two loyal friends.  I truly felt bad that we weren't enjoying the milder temps outdoors as I lay restless in my bed most of the day.  I tried keeping them amused with way too many raw hide bones and the windows open wide with the breeze blowing the curtains and fresh air swirling.  This perks up all their senses and they spend a huge amount of time staring out the windows and barking at anything that moves.  

My front porch October 2014

As of yet I am pumpkinless and mumless.  My neighbors are probably stumped...I usually have a lot of fun playing in the fall with pumpkins, gourds, pansies and the occasional haystacks.  One thing after another and this past week has been one, "I don't care about anything" state of mind.   

Ever the planner, I began stocking up on sweet treats for the trick or treater's a few weeks ago.  I added the usual pencils, erasers, crayons, spider rings and fangs.  I have over 100 little scary bags to fill with these goodies and I'm afraid to touch them for fear of spreading my germs!  But I'm confident I'll be ready next Saturday.  Milo will have his orange kerchief with black bats around his neck, ready on the porch with me while I pass out the treats from the big old with scary ghosts bowl that I've had forever.  I may have a carved pumpkin or two by then.  :)  

For the record, Layla wears a little jester collar with beads but huddles in my bedroom not quite so thrilled with the giddy kids dressed unlike anything she's seen.  

I mentioned that I actually had a little reprieve from this blasted cold/flu/virus/hell that I've had.  It was on Wednesday afternoon.  After a day and 1/2 in bed I threw off the blankets, took a long shower, dressed and actually put on some make up.  And off to the store I went to replenish my cold meds and Diet Pepsi.  Once home I still felt pretty good so I watered the lawn and started making a red sauce for some pasta as I'd been falling way behind in the Feed Your Man department.  I also scoured the countertops and sink with bleach so no one would catch my evil germs.  While the sauce bubbled away and a pumpkin candle burned cozily on the island, I flicked on the garbage disposal only to have that big 'ol "bubbling crude" come spouting up from both sides of the sink.  Putrid black water.  Gawd,  It was downhill from there.  

Dinner was delicious but what we couldn't fit in the dishwasher was stacked on the stove.  Nothing much could be done as far as clean up without the use of the sink.  I called the Sexy Irish Plumbers (I know you must remember my boys from previous posts) and they were set to arrive midday on Thursday.  And Thursday arrived with me feeling as badly as ever, the stench from the kitchen making me sicker to my stomach as I seemed to wait an eternity for the S.I.P.  Once they came it seemed to take forever to find the problem and then I found out that I had to take everything out from the cabinet under the sink.  I'm not sure what your cabinet looks like but mine is one big mess of cleaning supplies, buckets, watering cans, plant food, air fresheners, old used sponges, mouse traps and at minimum, 15 bottles of silver cleaner.  So there I was, head pounding and feeling like I could throw up, on my hands and knees half in this dark, dank cabinet removing everything for the S.I.P.  And after all was repaired and the water running like Niagra Falls, I had no choice but to scour everything down with disinfectant until I felt faint.  The Husband walked in as I was sweating bullets and with a big smile said, "Hon! You must be feeling better!"  Oh, what a creep.  I might have thrown a sponge at him. 

I've clocked a lot of hours in bed.  I can read in spurts.  I have to stop when the congestion in my head makes my eyes hurt and head ache.  Then I start reading again when I only lie there and think of the pain.   Am I a baby or what?  Anyway, the mind wanders and I was probably in a Nyquil haze when I  thought about the granola I made last week, the remainder still filling half a jar in the kitchen.  I started to think and one thing led to another and I managed to get up and throw this together.  I know, it sounds crazy but sometimes distraction is the best thing when you are feeling like crap.  And I needed to pop some Tylenol anyway.   This is one of the fastest little desserts you will ever make and you can use up that granola I gave you the recipe for in my last post.  It looks pretty bad but so do the ripe bananas you use for baking.  Ha!

Blondies Baked Bananas

2 ripe bananas
2 T honey
1/4 c. granola
1/2 c of warmed heavy cream or half & half

Place bananas on a baking sheet in a preheated 350 oven and bake for 25 minutes or until very dark and soft.   Remove and place on individual plates.  Carefully cut off ends and slit down middle.  Mush right in the middle much like a baked potato.  Drizzle honey over each banana, sprinkle granola  on and pour a bit of the cream over each letting it spill over on to plate.  Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on each one and add a little more granola if desired.  Serves 2.

This would be delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream.  Caramel can be substituted for the honey.  I seriously contemplated more ideas once I fell back into bed.  Sweet happy dreams.

My reading has been all over the past few weeks.  I've been plowing through what I have when I can and especially in the last week.  I read The Fairy Tale Girl by Susan Branch in one afternoon.   I know she has a huge following with her cookbooks, blog and all sorts of merchandise.. and she's quite engaging.   She writes in such a friendly way, I really enjoyed it although at times it really did seem a bit 'fairytale-ish'.  And I gleaned the idea of baked bananas from her but totally hallucinated the rest.  

I picked up the two books on the left (I don't like using Internet pics unless I have to) at a used book store a few blocks away.  I can read American Cookery a little at a time as each chapter is a bit of story in its own, and I thought Gilchrist's book of short stories would satisfy my short attention span.  She's a fantastic writer, anyone familiar?  And the last book, The Artist's Way came to me in a surprising way.  We were in Gatlinburg (last month) and I wandered into a shop where a woman about my age was sitting at an easel painting in watercolors, her art and prints all around her for sale.  She was friendly and talkative and although I'm sure she has this rapport with many customers, I really felt a sort of bond as we talked of creativity: finding it and using it.  She had been a professional photographer for many many years but yearned to paint.  She happened to come upon this book, The Artist's Way, about ten years ago and it changed her life.  She jotted down the name of the book along with her personal wishes for me and I didn't hesitate to order it on my cell phone once in the car.  It's an amazing book for anyone who wants to explore and unleash their creative side, whether it's creating art, poetry or writing a book.  Established writers and artists attribute this book to their success as noted in the reviews.  It's a push I need for some of the endeavors I'm pursuing.  

So that's all I have for now.  Crazy little post I know.  I'm grateful for actually sitting up with my laptop instead of flat on my back reading your posts with my iPad which you know is so aggravating to type on, thus no comments.  I hope this bug is on the way out.  I was just at my doctor to check my vitamin D level last month and no fault of hers, we never thought of doing the flu shot as my yearly exam is in December and that's when I get it.  

I hope you are all having a great weekend.  Sounds like there is rain everywhere.  Maybe that means next weekend will be warm and sunny for those little monsters!  We can hope, right? :)

Jane xx

Sunday, October 18, 2015


I'm trying to do a little rearranging of the Fall Decor.  Yes, caps here.  It seems to have overwhelmed my home just a bit short of the way Christmas does and that's monumental.  I have these shelves in my living room and they are jammed packed with everything from pictures to books to candles to...well, whatever.  I have a hard time saying "No" to anything and everything I love.  Anyway, I read an article somewhere the other day to the effect that you should only use 60% of your shelves for your 'whatever' (as if we go by rules).   I think I'm at 110%.  I really need to declutter and I'm having nightmares.  

Anyway, I added some real pumpkins, albeit small ones to my mantel.  :)

Saturday I made a fire for the first time this season.  It was afternoon and I was busy in the kitchen where I could see it and enjoy.  I love a fire in the late afternoon, especially when I'm making dinner.  If I could ever design my own home I'd have a fireplace in the kitchen right next to a table where we had cozy meals.  But this is good enough.

I tried my hand at making granola for the first time.   As I'm allergic to sunflower seeds and oil I've always had to be careful of granola and energy/breakfast bars.  A lot of 'healthy' snacks also have sunflower oil and I have to carefully read labels.  I came across a recipe for a healthy and easy to make granola in Redbook magazine by Carla Hall, who is a co-host on The Chew (love that show).  I had to change it up, of course, by eliminating the sunflowers seeds.  I also needed to make a few other changes that may have been recipe glitches or my own.  Here's my version or you can go to The Chew website and search Carla's recipe.

Simple Granola with Fruit and Nuts (Blondie's Version)


3 cups oats
3/4 c slivered almonds
3/4 c raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/4 c canola oil
1/2 c maple syrup
2 t vanilla extract
1 c dried cranberries
1 c dried apricots (chopped)
(you may substitute any dried fruit you like chopped uniformly)
2 T honey

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
In a large bowl mix the first 5 dry ingredients.  In a small bowl stir together the oil, syrup and vanilla.  Drizzle the syrup mixture over the dry and mix thoroughly.  Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 50 minutes, stirring every once in a while to brown evenly.  Remove and toss with dried fruit.  Drizzle with honey and let cool.  Store in an airtight container.

I doubled the recipe...this is an easy recipe but not so fast to put together.  I made several individual portions to give to family member who absolutely loved it.  You can eat it by the handful (as The Husband did), or top vanilla yogurt as daughter Abigail tried this morning.  Big thumbs up.  :)

I had another recipe I wanted to try...very simple and it was good hot and cold.  A simple appetizer.  I rolled out two containers of ready made crescent rolls into a rectangular shape, spread 8 oz. cream cheese and 1/4 c Parmesan, down the middle and sprinkled that with 1/2 cup chopped red pepper and then pinched it closed.  Flip it over seam side down on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cut into 2 inch wedges.  I served this with the potato soup I had made Saturday.

This was a fantastic potato soup recipe I Pinned from The Pioneer Woman all know Ree, right?  Love her.  I'll spare you a recipe here and just give you the link.  This is a winner but beware, there is a lot of chopping involved.  I would also eliminate half the bacon at the beginning and sub butter...the soup really had a smokey bacon flavor I could live without.  And I would add the carrots at the end, I didn't find the color of the soup too appetizing with the orange color.  I'm really sorry I can't give you the link but you can go to her website, The Pioneer Woman or go to my Pinterest site and look under Healthy Soups and Stews.   

We are off to a great week weather-wise here in the upper Midwest and that encourages me to finish up my yard work.  I have some new lilies to plant which will make me smile next summer and be grateful that I took the time to plant them.  And I have seeds from the cone flowers that I grabbed up when we were at the lake in August.  I'm hoping they will come up next spring.  I also want to say that my morning glories have an abundance of seed pods that will be ready to pluck off the vine in about 3-4 weeks.  My vine has a combo of pink and blue flowers.  If anyone wants any of these seeds (and I can give you a nice supply), let me know and I can have them sent off to you in a New York (Chicago) minute.  Email me your name and address and I'll ship them off as soon as they look dried.  

Off I go.  Not sure if you are a Mets or Chicago Cubs fan but we are rooting here in Chi Town for our  Cubbies.  Wow---what an exciting time.  We have season tickets so we will have seats next week and hopefully at The World Series.  Well, not me...I will totally forfeit to my sons, true sports fans.  

Have a great week, friends!

Jane x

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


October 2014.   Milo taking one his last walks of the season down the dock at the lake in Michigan.

Hi everyone!  I'm so happy to be here!  I know you've all been ready to give up on seeing a post of mine but for every few weeks.'s just been a rocky road for awhile now.  I'm going to take you on a trip down memory lane a bit as far as photos and maybe a few little memory joggers (for you and me) on what was happening last year at this time.  Don't you love that about blogging and the whole photo library thing?  We can track our lives back years and read about what we were doing going back as long as we've chronicled  it on our blogs.  

October 2014.  Front yard of lakehouse in all its fall glory!

Fall is absolutely gorgeous at the lake.  The woods are just across the street so we see a breathtaking amount of color out of every window.  Many different types of trees were originally planted on our property when the house was built so we have oak, maple, birch and well, a few I don't really know the names of!  If the house wasn't still in terrible shape after the burst pipe and subsequent damage, we would be up there now putting away the boats and toys and patio furniture.  The Husband would be hoisting the kayaks into the rafters and I'd be emptying and storing flower pots and all of my outdoor accessories.  I can't believe I'm getting a lump in my throat over this,  I usually detested this sort of work!

Last week after I wrote, I spent a good amount of time outside.  It was in the 70's and the dogs were loving it.  It hadn't (and hasn't) rained in quite awhile and with a nice breeze, they had their little sniffers in the air constantly when they weren't rolling in something smelly and decayed.  I emptied out the pathetic looking pots, put all my little doodads in the shed but I kept my table and chairs on the patio.  I continue to go out to read and spend a little time with the pups before it gets too cold.  

I fertilized the front lawn and plan to rake and over seed next week.  I can't believe I have yet to get one single pumpkin or mum or pansy, my very favorite fall decorations.  I keep saying, "Tomorrow."  And then it never happens.  Maybe this will be the 'Fall That Never Was'.

The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome downer last fall.

Oh!  And how can we forget this problem (for lack of a better word) that fell out of the skies and landed for no rhyme or reason on me?  Waking up with my fingers numb and my wrists hurting.  Two surgeries within 7 weeks.  Oh yeah, bring it on!  And you new followers think the broken arm in June was bad.  I'm so getting used having my arms in casts I can pretty much surf the internet and call my kids on the phone with my toes.  

Right now is the perfect time to tell you about my computer woes.  No offense to anyone but we all have these troubles and we really probably bore the heck out of each other with our various issues.  It's like gray hair---it's going to happen.  

My laptop was dying a slow death.  It had been seriously slow for over 6 months and then last week it wouldn't connect to the Internet although all of our other devices were.  I brought it in to our Tech guys up the street and told them, "No heroic efforts.  If it's over $50, unplug it and let it go."  After I left I thought long and hard (well, maybe not so long) about how I had gone through two laptops in 6 years and that's not surprising given the time I spend on it and what I store and the fact that they were both pretty inexpensive.  Long story short,  I went to Best Buy and spent a lot of time with a great guy looking at every laptop they carried and then two hours later walked out with a Mac.  For the record, I've never made such a big purchase for myself on my own without discussing it with The Husband first   I stopped at my son Jeff's house as he has the same Mac and he helped me get it set up.  I told him I was afraid to go home to the Firing Squad.  Well, The Husband was very cool.  Like, "I'm glad you took the 'horse by the reins'" sort of attitude.  It was a very liberating experience and I was not only proud but so grateful that my son and the Husband treated me with respect for my choice. :)

Asheville, NC.   November 2014

A little time at our condo for me to recuperate from the first hand surgery before the next.  

I spent most of this past weekend working on learning this whole new realm of using  computer with so much horsepower and so many options.  Not to mention a whole new way to do the basics...scrolling with two fingers, synchronizing your iPhone and iPad, how to store photos...and my old laptop is still in the shop and I need to transfer my old pictures and downloads.  And the old girl is being resurrected for under $50.  I love these guys.  And I'm going to gift her to someone in need.  

Briefly, I just want to tell you that I fell head first into a scam yesterday.  My new laptop froze with a warning that I had a virus.  I called the number on the screen, terrified that I had lost everything and I actually fell for it all, the protection insurance that was offered, the whole freaking ball of wax.  They got my passwords, access to my files and my credit car number (not to mention $200.00 that I thought would save me from losing everything). Abby was here and it didn't take more than 2 minutes of her screaming at me at over what a gullible fool I was.  I called Apple, crying hysterically of course.  They are exceptionally polite, friendly, intelligent and mostly comforting.  They helped me clean up the whole mess and I then cancelled my debit card.  Lesson learned...I wanted to pass it on in the case that anyone has something like this happen and has fears they will lose everything.  This person/company was able to fill my screen with serious looking data that said over and over, "Warning!  System compromised by virus!"  It wasn't a simple phone call. he was all over the place on my screens.  How do they do this?  All I know is that you must hang up and call your computer manufacturer.  This guy said he worked for Apple.  I was simply sickened when it was over.  

Pumpkin Cheese Ball

I loved making this last fall, very simple and fun and a big hit when I brought it to Jeff and Deirdre's engagement party.  Here's the recipe if you missed it.

8 oz. cream cheese
10 oz finely chopped sharp cheddar
1/4 c  blue cheese crumbles
2  t Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t celery salt
1/4 t  onion salt

 Mixture of approximately 1 cup finely chopped walnuts and 1 T paprika


Mix first 6 in a standing or hand held mixer.  Roll into a ball shape and chill 1/2 hour while you grind up walnuts and mix with paprika in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Place the ball of cheese on a large piece of parchment paper.  You will need to shape the cheese into a pumpkin shaped form.  Bring the parchment paper up and around the cheese ball to keep from making it sticky and shape it into a round larger from the middle down.  Once done,  pat the walnut/paprika mixture all over.  Using a butter knife, score the 'pumpkin' like the real deal from top to bottom in a curved fashion.  Add a real stem (wrapped in plastic at the bottom) or a piece of celery for the stem.  Chill an hour before serving with crackers.  I doubled the recipe to make the cheese pumpkin you see in the above picture.  Serves about 12.  Maybe more.  

Layla a few nights ago in our little den, sharing my fave chair.

That's all I have for now.  Sorry you have to hear all my troubles but this is why I've been remiss.  I wish I could figure out how to give links to the posts from last fall.  I will as I navigate this new monster of mine.  If you are interested,  just check my archives under October/November 2014.

Thanks for bearing with me.  Tomorrow is another day, another adventure and photos to share.  Hope you hang in there with me!

Jane x

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


A view of our condo complex from our balcony, Asheville, NC
I have never been so psyched and ready and prepared for a vacations like this one.  And once home so totally happy and revitalized.  SAID NO ONE EVER!
We arrived in North Carolina in time for the monsoon season.  I shouldn't make light of that because  the whole lower East coast has been dealing with  treacherous rain and flooding in the past week.  As for myself and The Husband, it rained the entire time we were in Asheville and well, we discovered why umbrellas were invented.  It didn't stop us but I'll keep this short.  We did our much loved shopping in Biltmore Village very close to our place, and we ventured into downtown Asheville for so many wonderful meals as well as more shopping.  My favorites for food:  The Lobster Trap, LAB, Strada, Corner Kitchen, and  Rezaz.  Shopping: Tops For Shoes, Mast,  COCO & C, The Screen Door...well, I simply love all of the shops.  The Husband and I found a few books we loved, a few things for the house, but mostly little gifts for our kids---including spouses.  And our Elsie.  The Husband chose some darling finger puppets for her and a Christmas ornament.  He's really loving being a grandfather.
Pretty fall mums from the grocery store.  A great Pick Me Up!
It was finally Home Sweet Home Wednesday night.  We got in at 8:00 p.m. and were sound asleep by 9 (I must confess that I sleep like a baby on planes but still...).  And in the days that have followed I have not stopped moving until yesterday.  But that's my life story, right?
We found some 'off the beaten path'  places in Gatlinburg.  I so loved the artisan made pieces.  I bought this beautiful dish with a 'flower frog'.  I'll try to do a  better display when I have more flowers.  I just love pottery and it's so nice to meet the potter as well.  This area also has an abundance of artists who work in carving wood pieces,  I found some very cool Christmas ornaments for myself and the family.  The Husband found a shop owned by a photographer and absolutely fell in love with his work, most of which was done in rural Tennessee and the Great Smoiky Mountains.  He spent well over an hour chatting with the man and bought three prints. We ultimately ended up shipping our little treasures home via Fed Ex.  I was happily surprised that it didn't cost as much as I had expected and the big box arrived 2 days after we got home and everything was securely wrapped and packed just perfectly.  We will definitely remember this.  So many times I've fallen in love with something only to say, "But how will I get it home?"  No problem now. 

It has taken awhile to get adjusted to being back at home.  The first few days involved cleaning and laundry and shopping...a party on Saturday and Abby staying the weekend (she requires a full time cook and maid).  Yesterday I decided to make a pizza as I had been wanting to try a recipe for dough from this cookbook.  This is a wonderful book, I'm not a vegetarian but I definitely try to keep the meat down and the veggies up.  It makes sense to me.  I hope you have time to look up
 this chef.  He's a British author and broadcaster and has written several award winning cookbooks that are not exclusive to vegetables..  He is all over the place~~~love that,
So I tried the dough recipe and not only does it make the crust for a pizza, but with a few tweaks, you can do bread, crostini, flatbreads and pita.  You can also freeze the dough (a great plus). How good can it get?
Basic dough after kneading
I know many of you are thinking, I have no desire to make my own bread, pizza, whatever.  I gave it a fair shot myself a few years ago and after covering every bit of counter space and much of the floor with flour, not to mention messy bowls, measuring cups and spoons to wash, I decided it wasn't worth the trouble. 
I would not post this version of bread dough if I didn't have the faith that it's simple, versatile and simply delicious.  I'm giving you the condensed version from the book but it's exact as far as measurements.  
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 t sea salt
1 t instant dried yeast
1 T olive oil
1 1/3 c warm water
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add the olive oil and water and mix to a rough dough.  Knead by hand for 10 minutes or as I do, use the dough hook if you have a KitchenAid or similar standing mixer.  I let it work away for 15 minutes while I prepared a second batch to freeze and cleaned up. 
Set oven to 200 degrees.  Once it reaches that temp, let it go for 5 minutes.  Turn the heat off and open the oven door keeping it ajar for 5 minutes to let most of the heat escape.  Take your kneaded ball of dough and place it in a large ovenproof bowl in which you have drizzled a little oil.  Roll the dough a bit in it to lightly coat.  Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and place in oven for approximately 2 hours.  I let my dough rise with this method as it's foolproof.  Most recipes instruct you to place the dough in a warm spot of your home.  That's an impossibility in my drafty old house.  Try it this way.
2 hours later.  The risen dough
All you need to do now is gently poke the dough with your fingers, let it 'deflate', and then gently shape it into a log-type form.  Cut it into three even sections to make crusts for three thin pizzas, approximately 12 inches in diameter.  Simply roll out the pieces on a floured surface until they are 1/8 inches thick.  Place on a lightly floured pizza pan and fold and crimp the edges any old way.  Then create the pizza of your choice~~the possibilities are endless.
I made veggie pizzas.  A huge hit. On one I had a simple tomato sauce that I used sparingly and just barely spread around.  The second had just a bit of olive oil on the crust and then the same veggies.  Here you go:
1 T olive oil
2 T chopped shallot
2 large cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
2 T fresh thyme
3 T fresh parsley
1 t sugar
1 T honey
Heat oil in a large saucepan. over low heat.  Add oil and once hot, add shallots and garlic. Cook on low stirring about 3 not overcook--you do not want them limp.  Add tomatoes, herbs, sugar and honey (these last two ingredients will take away the bitterness of the tomatoes).   Continue cooking covered approximately 1/2 hour, stirring often and breaking down the tomatoes.  Meanwhile prepare your toppings...veggies, meat, cheeses, whatever your heart desires.
Assemble your pizza and bake at 450 degrees approximately 15-20 minutes or until you see the edges of the crust a nice healthy brown.   Each pizza serves 2-3. 
Use what you want but remember---all veggies are not alike.  I used sautéed garlic, shallots and sliced red onion.  Everything but the eggplant got this bit of action on the stove for about three minutes in a pan with a drop of olive oil.  This takes the 'edge' off the onions and keeps them from getting crisp in the oven.  Use what you want.  Eggplant and most squash should be salted once cut and left to 'perspire' on a paper towel for about 15 minutes.  They will otherwise get soggy when cooked.  Yuk. Root veggies and more dense sorts should be blanched to soften them.  So you want to think of this sort of preparation before you aim to pop the pizza in the oven. 
I wanted to share this picture with all of you.  This is my son who got married in August.  He got the hiking bug this past spring when he, my other son, Kevin, The Husband and several guys went hiking and camping near Boulder, Colorado.  It is now a huge part of Jeff's life.  He did some mountain climbing around Lake Tahoe on his honeymoon and here he is again in Colorado a few weeks ago where he climbed 3 of the highest mountains in the state.  I'm simply amazed and in awe.  He's so nonchalant about it.  The other day I saw these pics for the first time.  I thought he was away on business.  I asked him, "Why are you doing this?  Is this a new passion?  You and the wilderness?"  (You may want to refer back to my last post and my preoccupation with bears and vultures around our cabin in Tennessee).  He said, "No, Mom.  I'm facing my fears.  I'm going to face every one of them."  I was speechless but not surprised.  This is what makes Jeff unique.  He's truly his 'own person' and while he has tons of friends, a new wife and probably a lot of children in his future, he has a restlessness that I think he's really trying to unleash and this is just very exciting.  Of course I worry, I'm hoping he will find someone or a group to team up with and I'm sure he will.  We have so many wishes for our children...I may be a bit of a dreamer but I simply want mine to be happy. 
It's such an iffy time of year, temperatures going up and down, leaves changing a little slowly.  I know so many of you are in very hot climates and relish this time of year and others simply want summer over.  I was cleaning out my closet yesterday, sorting through sandals and summer shoes I could donate and then pulling out all the boots and winter shoes.  Contrary to the side of me that is a shoe fanatic, I'm happiest in bare feet.  I was sort of wincing looking at the leather and suede and thinking, "Oh.  Not yet!"  Some of us think that time slows down during the winter.  I find this time of year to be when I'm on my annual brink of insanity with the holidays just around the corner.  But I digress.  My gardens and yard are in desperate need of some TLC.  I mentioned to Abby that I needed to start tossing the flowers and storing the pots.  She looked almost tearful.  Why would I do that when they still had pretty flowers?  Because I've sometimes waited until mid November  and then froze my little fingers  and nose off doing it.  While writing this (long) post I went outside for a little stroll around the grounds.  The squirrels have made a mess digging up the lawn to bury the endless amount of walnuts we have everywhere.  In pots of mixed flowers, some of the less sturdy plants have died off from the cold night temps while others are just begging for a drink of water.  The morning glory and ivy are eating the house and with little rain here, I haven't seen any birds except crows. 
I simply don't know where time goes.  I've been a little grumpy the past few days as I feel a bit tired, sort of worn out and not really up for all of the chores, projects and ideas I have swimming around me.  I think I expect too much of myself (and others I might say).  I find making excuses to be a cop out.  Somewhere along the way I've come to equate relaxing with laziness and though I know that's just crazy, I simply feel happy and content when I've accomplished something tangible.  And the perfectionist in me wants everything done this minute.  I need to find some balance.  I don't think I truly know what relaxation means.  And I really don't think I found much of it on this vacation.
Okay, enough whining...I'm leaving you with a picture if little Elsie.  She is growing so fast!  I'll be back soon!
Jane x