Sunday, April 24, 2016


The start of the tulip parade

One would think that I've been busy as a bee since it has been a little over a week since I last posted.         Really though, I haven't.  Just some normal 'catch up' after our trip...laundry, a car wash, making the house a little more presentable.  Errands, grocery store, light therapy for the skin 3 times a week.  And there wasn't much to photograph.  My Swiffer?  Do you ever feel as if a lack of photos means a lack of words?  Well, I'll do my best, I'm rarely at a loss for words.  ;-D

We had wonderful weather last weekend and I was really, really happy that I only had to make a few subtle hints to get The Husband to clean out our shed.  It has been a super mess for a very long time and I knew it would take me weeks and weeks to clean out.  Bags of old fertilizer and grass seed long expired, rakes, shovels and garden tools scattered all over.  In a far corner, Abby's  bike from when she was about 13.  He filled about 10 huge trash bags and had a huge stack of junk to be brought out on trash day.  Thankfully our son in law, Mike, came over and lended a hand in bringing it all to the curb. It's such a relief to have all of this space.  There is already some shelving in there as well as hooks on the wall.  I really can't wait to organize everything.  Gardening is going to be much more easy this year and clean up in the fall a breeze.  Thank you, dear. 

I forget the name of these tiny flowers each spring and I think you gals told me their name last spring.  Help!  Also, do you think I can divide them, they are great ground cover.

Last Sunday when The Husband was doing the shed makeover, son Kevin came by with little Elsie.  She's been walking for 2 1/2 months so it was so cool to have her in our back yard.  I took her hand and showed her the tulips, picked one for her which she promptly tried to eat.  She really loved the branches of the forsythia, so bright yellow now.  Abby and Tom pulled out my patio table and umbrella that morning so we spent time in the shade.  I made her some buttered toast and cottage cheese and she sat on my lap in the shade to munch.  Then we took a little stroll, hand in hand down the front sidewalk.  She babbled and I guess what I said was babble to her:  "This is where your daddy walked to school for years, from the age of four to thirteen".  We walked back to the house and stopped where you can see the gate to our backyard.  Milo and Layla were waiting and she immediately recognized them and pulled toward that direction.  Then she saw Grandpa in his bright red shirt near the shed and her face lit up.  We had a great afternoon and I think Kevin liked his alone time in the cool house watching the Cubs game.

More backyard babble.  Told you I didn't have a lot of pictures.  I can't wait for warmer weather to add to my herb garden.  My chives and oregano come back every year and you can see the dead foliage of last years morning glories.  I don't clear them out in the fall, the seed pods are ripe and ready to pop up once they get rain. Yes, a lot more clean up 

Speaking of rain, I have some bare spots in my lawn and I'm a perfectionist about my front and backyard.  I like to reseed when I know we have rain predicted but sometimes it doesn't work out for the best.  With rain in the forecast on Wednesday evening, I flew to Home Depot after my light therapy and paid a fortune (as usual) for grass seed.  I didn't even go into the house once I got home, rain drops had started to fall.  I opened the garage, pulled down the spreader, filled it up and seeded that front lawn in about ten minutes flat.  And then a light rain started and I did a little jig inside.  And  then the thing I dread happened.  The rain started coming down in torrents and that washed the seed around, and made puddles in shallow spots.  My only consolation is I do have about 1/4 of the bag left and I'll wait until June to fill in random spots.  Am I not a relentless perfectionist?

I might have forgotten to mention that the day after I came back from Canada I went over to Emily's house, she watches little Elsie on Thursdays.  The Husband and I always get her (Elsie, not Emily) a little something with the name of the places we visit.  Isn't it cute?  Later that day the three of us went to Target and wow, it was so cool to push a baby in a cart again!  And she is so good.  Even though she was getting tired, she was excellent.  She rarely, if ever cries.


This was another beautiful weekend and Milo and Layla are really loving the warm temps and the tease of summer.  I dug out the 'outdoor' water bowl and little Layla, who loves to stretch out in the sun, became a little overheated and decided that the cold water was the place to lie down next to in the shade.  

I have tons of work to do outside and I haven't even begun to plant flowers.  I have plenty in my flower beds but I love pretty pots.  Just not warm enough yet. 

 In between my time outside doing the chores, I'm catching up on some reading, visiting more blogs every evening than I have been in the past few months (thank you for understanding that life sometimes gets crazy) and I've been really experimenting in the kitchen with new recipes.  I take such terrible pictures of food and since we actually eat what I make, I can't spend a lot making the food look pretty; staging with various props and letting it get cold.  Each recipe I've tried, one from a restaurant in Vancouver with ingredients I sort of figured out and stored in my phone, have been spectacular and I'm sure I'm going to make these again and again and I'll be sure to get a few shots.  What's a recipe without a picture? And something I'm really happy about is I did dust off my little Canon, used it in Canada, and downloaded some pics today.  In fact, all of my flower pictures were taken with this camera so I'm keeping it at hand and definitely not grabbing my iPhone for pictures.  Hopefully my food will look better!  Some of the recipes I made for the first time were Quinoa Salad with arugula, red pepper, cucumber, capers and Feta cheese.  Another great recipe was a wonderful Chicken Paprikash that is very traditional to Hungary, and utterly the best.  And finally, an oven baked fish and chips.  How great not having to have it fried.  The secret?  Browning the bread crumbs in a skillet before you coat the fish with them.  I'll share these in upcoming posts.

Thanks so much for the visit.  I'll try to stay on track a bit better.  I hope all of you are having good weather.  Would love to hear what you are doing outside to get ready for summer.  What is your weather like?

Have a great week and I'll be back soon (just need that camera at my side!).


Jane x

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Our hotel 

Our much anticipated trip to Vancouver came and went in the blink of any eye.  6 days is really the average for us when we take trips but this one kept The Husband and I on our toes and it flew by.  This was our second time visiting and we were able to cover much more ground.  The first few days were work for The Husband but I managed very well to keep myself busy.  I'm getting ahead of myself though.  Of course there had to be some mishaps.  The Perils of Pauline often occur in Blondieville and this was no exception.  There's something about travel and airports...

At some point during our 4 1/2 hour flight I felt a sort of pricking in my chest area.  Like getting stabbed every few seconds.  I went to the washroom on the plane and pulled the zipper down on my sweater and saw the culprit.  The sharp underwire of my bra had poked through the fabric and was actually stabbing me in the chest.  I did what I could to poke and pull it into place and then went back to my seat.  Needless to say I fiddled with this for the remainder of the flight.  I was well aware that I might just be drawing attention to myself, the woman in the aisle seat pulling her zipper up and down and seemingly fiddling with her bosom.  But it was after all, a matter of life and death.

Long story short, we made it to Vancouver, got our luggage, went through customs and all the while I worried about bending or twisting...truly stabbing myself and dying in the most embarrassing way possible.  Finally I was able to get to a washroom. Can you imagine trying to undress and remove your bra in a 3 x 5 space when you are in a complete sweat?  I was so relieved to dump the offending garment in the trash bin, black and lacy and sexy as it was.  Then I had to deal with being braless and spending the next hour finishing up at the airport, taking a train to the area we were staying in and then a cab to the hotel.  I did all of this with my arms crossed over my chest as if it were cold. was 67 degrees and I'll be darned if I wasn't dressed for the 37 degree temps and snow that we were having in Chicago when we left that morning.  I looked like an idiot.  Bonjour Vancouver, Blondie has arrived.  ;-(

A view from our hotel restaurant~~

As I mentioned in previous posts, The Husband was invited to give a presentation to a large international group of people having to do with the legal field.  As an attorney for some 40 years, he is an expert in his chosen area of law and well respected not only in Illinois, but the entire U.S.  He worked so hard preparing for this and he totally aced it.  His portion of the plane fare, food and lodging was paid for so that was a plus for us, and the hotel was chosen by the hosting organization.  It couldn't have been a better choice.  Located in the Coal Harbour area, we were on the waterfront and within walking distance of some of the best sites.  My first view of the mountains was from our hotel restaurant.

The husband needed time and space to prepare for his presentation and was also meeting with people here and there so I was pretty much on my own.  I'm going to be brutally honest here,  I'm really not one to get around well by myself.  Yes, I did when I was younger.  In my twenties I did a ton of stuff independently, had no problem going here and yonder by myself, but after 30+ years with a life partner, you get used to doing things as a couple.  But I had to come to the realization that we aren't Bert and Ernie and that I had to put on my big girl pants.  I hadn't planned doing it in another country but with map in hand, I set out for a shopaholic paradise, Robson Street.  Now, I can get lost in a phone booth but I have to admit, I did quite well and I really had a ball.  Great shops and wonderful places to sit on benches and people watch.  After two hours of shopping and browsing I stopped for a light lunch.  I haven't had a meal alone in a restaurant in a very long time but I was quite comfortable.  As I made my way back to the hotel I received a text from The Husband, "Where are you????"  Ha!  He's the one who booted me out of our room!  Never underestimate a woman when shopping is involved. 

Emily helped me shop for this vacation.  She always makes me look at things with a fresh eye.  I wear way too much black and gray and I don't like patterns...I feel frumpy and/or clownish.  I wasn't too sure about several items, especially this top.  When she said it looked nautical I fell for it.  I actually wore it twice and as I teased on Instagram, I slept on it.  We had feather down pillows and I'm allergic.  Every time I thought of asking for synthetic it was late at night so I would lay a piece of my clothing over the pillow.  It kept me from waking with splotches on my face. This blouse was nice and soft.  Double duty.

Our brother in law, Jack, has lived in Vancouver for well over ten years.  He married a gal  from there and unfortunately it didn't work out but he loves where he is and plans to stay.  It was so great seeing him and he has a new friend, Isabella (Izzie).  The Husband and I had such a wonderful time with them at this restaurant, Cardero's.  Located in the harbor, we were swooning over the incredible yachts tied up to the piers.  I especially loved the nautical decor inside the restaurant; ship wheels, anchors, canoes and small versions of seaplanes hanging from the high ceilings.  The seafood was incredible and we enjoyed catching up with Jack and getting to know Izzie.  I can't say enough how impressed I was with the restaurant, the location, views, decor, service and excellent food.  

The harbor next to Cardero's

I was so lucky to meet up with two bloggers, seems I 'know' someone in every city  I guess that's probable when you've been blogging for 7 years.  Lori, from Family Trees May Contain Nuts (far right) and I have been blog friends forever.  Nancy, from Stonecrop Sisters, and I have been following one another for about 2 years.  We met at a restaurant a few blocks from my hotel.  We had a wonderful lunch and as always, I'm so happy and surprised when I meet bloggers and we talk and laugh like we've known each other for years.  That was the case here.  :-D

We drove up to Whistler, BC early Monday morning.  It was gloomy and raining but the drive was beautiful.  The sea on one side of the highway and on the other, mountains that changed from solid rock to sky scraping pines.  

As we neared our destination the sun came out and it was even more spectacular.

I did my research and found a hotel in Whistler Village where we could walk to everything.  It's called The Delta Whistler Village Suites.  This is a view from our room.  You can see the snow covered ski trails on one of the mountains.  We don't ski but I was feeling that athletic and adventurous vibe in the air.  I told The Husband we should take lessons in Michigan where there are a few places to ski, in fact our kids took lessons.  Well, it was a nice but fleeting thought.

We strolled through the village, stopped in a few shops and had lunch on a rooftop cafe.  The weather was perfect, all that was needed was a light jacket.  Many of the restaurants have heated outdoor spaces such as this one where we stopped for a cocktail.  

The Village looked so gorgeous lit up at night as well.  Everything is open a little later as the skiers go as long as they can.  There was a festival going on in the town as well, so there was live music here and there and a pretty happy crowd.  

Seeing the rings from the 2010 Winter Olympics made my heart skip a beat.  I'm glad I got this photo at dusk, it really looks cool, doesn't it?

We had to leave early the next morning for the two hour drive back to Vancouver.  We decided 'next time' we would stay in Whistler longer.  We never actually left The Village.  

Back in Vancouver we checked back into The Pinnacle.  I had viewed some other places to stay but this hotel was very nice.  I asked about upgrading our city-view room to a waterfront view.  It was $20 more and The Husband said I could come down to the restaurant if I wanted to see the water.  He's blunt like that.  The girl at the desk gave me a sympathetic smile.   When we arrived on the 18th floor I noticed our room was across the hall from our previous room...and yes, you've got it.  She gave us the waterfront view!  We had a small balcony and this was the view that evening.  That lit up structure in the center of this photo is actually a floating gas station.  It was not only a pleasure to watch the boats coming and going but there were many, many small seaplanes.  I have tons of pictures of them on my camera and I was able to zoom in on them as they were taking off and landing.  And they tied up to piers just like boats!  That was a new thing for me.

Our last day was very rainy.  Drenching rain and we wandered around with umbrellas and ducked in and out of shops and bars.  We ended up for dinner at a beautiful restaurant in the Westin Hotel where we celebrated our last night having seafood chowder, fish and gelato for dessert.  

I hope this wasn't too long or drawn out, or too busy with photos.  I haven't had a chance to look at the ones I took with my camera.  We arrived home late Wednesday night.  I think spring arrived in Chicago while I was gone.  I'm sitting outside as I type this, it's 75 degrees.  Unbelievable.  The Husband is cleaning out the shed and the dogs are lying in the sun.  I haven't sat still since I came home.  Grocery shopping, eye doctor, a visit with Emily who watches Elsie on Thursdays, and the annual visit to the vet with Milo yesterday.  You want to hear something funny?  Abby has been moaning and groaning about how old Milo is getting, 14 years old (young).  She thinks he's going deaf and blind.  So yesterday I asked Dr. B. just how old Milo is based on his records.  Well the darn dog just turned 12 last fall!  I couldn't wait to tell Abby.  Now, don't you wish we had that sort of luck?  Just a mere two year miscalculation on our age?

Quiet week ahead (I think).  I hope to fiddle around outside, I have some daffodils and early tulips coming up as well as grape hyacinths and snowdrops.  I'm going to plant a little 'salad garden' while the weather is still a bit cool...I think I'm going to give up the tomato plants in containers, I only manage to get about five ripe ones and that's not until late August.  :(

I hope you're having a great weekend and that you might just be having weather like us.  It's heavenly!  See you soon.


Sunday, April 3, 2016


Let's start with some pretty flowers today.  I seem to gravitate to them every time I do my grocery shopping as you know.  The other day it was $5 bouquets so I chose two bunches of spray roses.  I have this fantastic wire container with three glass jars and flower frog tops that make arranging so simple with spectacular results.  You've seen this before but I've never actually used it on my table until recently.  I combined two different shades, yellow and pink, and I think it looks beautiful.  I hope they last as long as those carnations I shared in my last post.  Changing the water every day and snipping a bit at the bottom of the stems helps.  The porcelain tray they sit on is a purchase from Williams Sonoma years ago.  Very, very pretty.  I love bringing it out in the spring.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Easter.  We had a lovely day.  The weather was quite warm and we talked and laughed and enjoyed a great dinner.  Dessert was many sweets brought by guests, much more than needed.  A great time all around.

I had a few dishes that failed but I was prepared for that. I disappointed myself with the trifle I had planned for dessert.  This however, was not the first time I had made one.  I simply didn't fully read the recipe as I went through the various steps...cake, filling, fruit, repeat.  I mixed the whipped cream into the filling (pudding and condensed milk among other things) when I should have folded it in at the end. Instead of a firm sort of custard it was more like milk  The next layer, berries, would have sunk into oblivion.  Happily I had the homemade pound cake and extra whipped cream as well as strawberries and that's a nice dessert of its own.  Several family member brought sweets as well.  We weren't lacking at all.  

I promised a few recipes and you can find links at the end of my post. You can also follow me on Pinterest by clicking on the icon on my sidebar.  Most of my recipes are Pinned and I make a ton of changes...I pick apart recipes all the time and give my own stamp on them until I'm satisfied.  I'll only give you recipes on my blog if I have done that.  Otherwise a direct link to the source.  You can fiddle with these recipes as well.  That's originality.  :)

I always try to make anything and everything ahead of time for big dinners and holidays.  I had an appointment with my dermatologist downtown the Friday before Easter and planned to start some desserts and make~ahead dishes later that day.  I was however, feeling a bit off that morning  After I showered and about 15 minutes before I was ready to leave, I felt a wave of nausea come over me and from then on it was a downhill course if you know what I mean.  The Husband tucked  me into bed and called to cancel the appointment.  It really upset me as I need to be monitored, have blood tests, etc., to make sure the meds aren't affecting my liver and kidneys. 

 As I laid in bed I kept thinking of all of the preparations I had to do for Easter Sunday.  I really like a head start, am determined to have a head start.  I had shopping, cleaning and a few recipes to do as early as possible.  But I was feverish, chilled and nauseous.  And then...there was a knock at the door.  A representative for the electric company.  They were going to be trimming trees in my backyard and along the alley to clear the power lines...please keep your dogs in.  Oh, that's easy.  Except my dogs can hear, see and sense anyone within 50 feet of our house.  I had 50 guys in bright yellow vests and hard hats doing macho stuff with my 50 walnut trees and then hauling the poor and healthy limbs to their cruel chipper truck.  Oh, such excitement for Milo and Layla and misery for me.  I shut the blinds, closed the curtains and thought about blasting the Rolling Stones on my iPod, but instead I suffered in silence.  As you can see above, as evidence of my distress, I pulled Milo's favorite chair away from a living room window but it didn't deter the dude from straddling it.  Obscene almost.  As horrifying it was, it makes for a good blog post.

Abby was on spring break this week and I always feel that I have to clarify that she is a teacher, not a student.  At 25 years old, being petite and pretty, she really does look like a student and it drives her mad.  She arrived home Easter Sunday morning with a cute tray of sliced cakes and a container of guacamole and chips.  She thrust them at me and said, "Never go to the grocery store on Easter morning.  The whole place was swimming with desperate people."  And then she caught sight of The Husband vacuuming the living room rug.  He was feeling sympathetic after my stomach bug and was doing pretty much everything I asked him to do.  Yes, it was shocking for both me and Abby.  I was simply happy that he needed only a minimum of directions to find the vacuum cleaner.

As I said, Abby was on spring break and I was really looking forward to some one on one time with her.  She has been living on the Northside of Chicago for the past year with her best friends and as we are on the Southside, we've missed her.  Now, she and her boyfriend of 7 years have found an apartment just 5 houses down from where she lives now.  A three story apartment with a cool courtyard that blends in very much with the million dollar homes (seriously) on the block.  I say this because her safety depends very much on the neighborhood she lives in.  So far we've only seen some pictures.  Move in date is April 30th.  

Today The Husband and I drove up to be with her and some of her housemates for her birthday at a pub on the corner called Toons.  We had a fabulous time.  The weather was so strange.  It would be sunny and pleasant and then turn dark with snow blowing in the high winds.  It would stop and start over and over again.  Very odd and now we have temps expected in the 60's.  

April 2, 2016  
Downtown Chicago

This photo was taken from our car on our way back home.  The clouds were quite ominous.

I ordered a gift for her that hasn't arrived yet, but then again her actual birthday is on April 7.  She never reads my blog so I'll tell you.  A fine gold necklace with an 'A' charm and another little teardrop charm with Tom's birthstone.  I actually paid extra for fast shipping but it wasn't here today when we met up with her.  Grrrrr...  I hope it arrives before we leave for Canada.

We had a great five days together.  Monday we hit HomeGoods for some 'this and that' for her apartment.  I was on a weird mission to find her a butter dish.  I know, very strange.  I actually found three that I placed in one spot, (shhhh...) to show her.  As I walked the aisles I felt my heart getting heavy.  She doesn't have that black belt in shopping like Emily and I do.  I expected to find her with nothing.  As I rounded a corner there she was, her cart half full.  She has a vision!  Yay!  Spa colors for her bath, some kitchen items and even a few decorative pieces  (you can see some of this in the photos below).   So many things piled on the floor in my family  room.  She was so excited to show Tom.  Yes, these are my tosies! And no, she didn't like any of the butter dishes.  Claims she doesn't use butter, just olive oil.  I'm guessing she'll never bake.  

After HomeGoods and two furniture stores, we had a late lunch at Corner Bakery.  Tuesday we went to 2 more furniture stores and a mall~I needed a few products from Sephora.  Yes, I need some attention, too!  She and Tom ended up at Ikea that night and bought a sectional and are very happy (ever after I hope).

I've been searching and searching for a real wreath all over the place but didn't want to pay $75+ dollars.  This is handmade with real wheat and I scored it for under $20!  It may not last forever but I really love the real thing.  I'm not against silk plants, I think they look great from a distance in an urn on the hearth or fireplace, but not in close proximity.  But it suits many people and I don't knock that.  I hope this pretty wreath lasts awhile.  We have a storm door so I think I'm good.

With the risk of changing my blog name to Blondie's Medical Journal, I just wanted to share a little about my dermatology appointment Friday.  My skin is doing really well and I may have the meds cut in half at my next appointment in a few weeks.  Yes, no more headaches!  So at this appointment my doctor wanted a blood test to check my liver and kidney functions that are sometimes affected by this drug.  And gulp...I only have one kidney (long story).  My blood pressure was sky high, too, and that frightened me.  As my luck goes, the nurse/tech had to stick me 5 times, one in the back of my hand, and seriously could not get blood.  I turned my head to The Husband each time to avoid the sight and each time I thought it was happening.  Nope.  I said to him, 'Hon, I truly think I'm dead."  And he replied,  "No. You're still Googling restaurants for lunch"

Great week ahead.  A blood test at a facility of my choice (they decided not to stick me any further).  Two light therapies bumped up to three.  I finally got a current eye exam and need to follow up on that.  The dreaded teeth cleaning.  But on a happy note, my blog friend, Cindy, and her husband are coming to Chicago and we are meeting for dinner on Monday night.  I am SO looking forward to that.  She's the blogger I met 7 years ago and we meet up once or twice a year.  We may also meet up for a little shopping and lunch as well.  I am beyond happy!  

I have three links for recipes I think you guys might love.  As I said, I screwed up the trifle but it's a recipe you may want to keep.  The Italian Spread is a keeper.  Make it ahead, it tastes better after it melds.   Several people raved over the Chilled Strawberry Soup.  I added a bit more cream than the recipe calls for, taste it as you go along.  It was a little tart to me. ;-)

I'll see you hopefully before our trip next Friday.