Wednesday, May 25, 2016


I can't believe we are almost into June.  I'm really happy to say that in spite of the fluctuations in temperatures and the amount of rain we've been having, I've been able to make progress in my yard and garden beds.  My darn back has made it a little difficult and I'm sure I'm doing a lot of lifting and bending in the absolute most wrong way.  Although I'm not looking forward to physical therapy, I think there's a lot to learn and I'm pretty grateful for that.  

I did my 'not so fun' work first; Pulling weeds, reseeding, mulching and general clean up.  I really wanted to put some of my fun decorative pieces out on the patio but I was potting there and it was a mess. Finally I moved everything out to the picnic table and spiffed up the deck and my baker's rack.  The Husband and I bought this monster at Nordstrom's Rack about 15 years ago when we both worked in downtown Chicago.  We threw caution to the wind and parked in the alley where we pushed and shoved and maneuvered it into the back of his Aviator.  I never thought it would fit but he's an optimist.  It used to be pale green but its seen better days.  Someday I may paint it.  Or not.  I found the little cabinet next to it at a second hand shop years ago.  My late sister, Leslie, helped me paint it.  My first project like that.  Anyway, I had fun playing.  The only new thing I have on here is the little plant on the top shelf and the green pails on the second.  I don't know what on earth I can do with those...any ideas?  Or just leave things alone? ;-D

We have a 3 foot roof overhang in this corner where the patio is tucked into.  Sometimes its a nemesis, especially around the corner where I have a long garden bed.  It doesn't get the rain so I have to water it.  But here, along the patio, my baker's rack stays dry.  

I've been longing for lights along the house in this area and last year my SIL called me when Target had a clearance on the ones she has that I LOVE.  I got 3 twenty inch strands for $7.98 each.  Ladies, wait for those end of season sales!  I'll try to get a good shot soon.  

Little Layla loves exploring anything new, like the mulch.  She also lounges in the sun in my herb garden, smashing my baby plants. Good old Milo loves a warm patch where I have newly planted grass seed.  In this picture you can see the German Ivy which is pretty much a ground cover.  I covered a lot with the mulch but it will snake its way back up.

When I was in Vancouver a few weeks back, I was really loving the salads that were not so average.  I really adore my veggies but I'm always looking for ways to jazz them up and make them anything but boring.  On the afternoon I ventured out alone to shop I had lunch in a restaurant called Cactus Cafe.  I ordered a salad very much like this one and I wrote a list of the ingredients as I ate.  I came home and naturally didn't get around to making it for awhile.  Finally I did last week and followed up with another version a few days later.  

The salad is surprisingly simple and the beauty is that you can switch out the protein (meat) or skip it all together.  Veggies can be substituted depending on what you have on hand.  The key is to have all of the ingredients at room temperature except for the dressing.  Anything hot will wilt the lettuce and you will have a mish mash.

Chicken Quinoa & Veggie Salad

1)  2 c cooked and shredded chicken breast
2 cups of mixed lettuce or baby greens

2)  1 1/2 c cooked quinoa
1 t olive oil
1 t melted butter

3)  1 T olive oil
 3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 T capers
1/4 c almond slivers
1/4 c roughly chopped red pepper

1 c English cucumbers, sliced
1/2 c feta cheese

Place the vinaigrette in a large bowl and top with lettuce.  Do not toss until ready to serve.  In a small skillet, gently heat up the olive oil and add the garlic cloves, capers, almonds and peppers until barely softened.  Remove from heat.

Toss salad and arrange 1/2 the lettuce mixture on a portion of a plate, then top with 1/2 of the  chicken.  Sprinkle almond topping over and garnish plate with cucumber and feta.  Add a pinch of S & P. 

Salad with Sirloin Slices, Rice Noodles and Fresh Veggies


This salad is much the same except I substituted beef strips which I cooked in vegetable oil over very high heat just to sear.  After removing them from the pan I wiped it clean, added a tad of butter and added 2 medium carrots, chopped fine, 3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine and 1 small shallot, peeled and chopped roughly along with a scattering of slivered almonds.  The salad was tossed with a store bought Poppy Seed dressing (I use Marie's).  Thai rice noodles cook up quickly and after draining and cooling, I jazzed them up with a variety of spices and a splash of olive oil.  

Dress your plate as in the recipe above.  Arrange raw zucchini slices and roughly chopped red pepper all around.  Sprinkle S & P over to taste.  

Both of these salads serve 2.

I've only made it reading through the first chapter of this book, Cravings, which consisted of the most decadent breakfast recipes ever.  The bad thing about being an avid cookbook reader is that you get veeeeeeery hungry.  I'm wanting to make every recipe I see, from the Spicy Tomato  Skillet Eggs with Prosciutto to the Dutch Baby Pancakes.  Each recipe begins with a few comments and Chrissy Teigen is seriously down to earth, honest and funny.  How she keeps her body looking so great when she cooks like this is a mystery to me but she is enthusiastic about full on flavor, and makes no apologies for the 'comfort food factor' in so many of her recipes.  I also like that the dishes aren't really complicated nor do they have ingredients that you have to go to Dean & Deluca in NYC for.  The pictures are simply gorgeous as well.  As soon as I choose a few breakfast recipes and have the ingredients on hand, I'll share.  

Emily watches Elsie on Thursdays and last week we got together and went to our favorite plant nursery.  You have all 'been there' with me seasonally for my flowers, pumpkins and Christmas trees. We had a really great time.  I could see Elsie's eyes taking in all the pretty colors and she loves to gaze into people's faces.  She really makes everyone smile.  

As we walked around I mentally put together my pots and selected plants.  Emily seemed to be in a daze.  That's not like her, she always has a plan.  Always.  I asked her what was wrong.  "I'm overwhelmed, mom.  I just can't think."  I believe her.  She's in over her head with work and then meeting clients in her free time.  Trying to continue with the yard work and designing the baby's room.  I told her to go get a cart of her own and I would take care of Elsie.  We poked around inside and out of the shop and after about  fifteen minutes I ran into Emily and her overflowing cart.  It didn't take long for her to get her mojo back! 

2 days ago Emily had another ultrasound and at sixteen weeks the doctor was pretty sure he could tell the sex of the baby.  Emily and Mike wanted to have a gender reveal party but unlike Kevin and MC, where the results were called in to a bakery and the cake had a tinted filling (pink or blue), they opted instead for finding out the gender right then and there, having the party and surprising all of us, family and friends with a box filled with helium balloons (pink or blue).  I believe that was the biggest run~on sentence in the history of run~on sentences.  Sorry.  I couldn't believe she was going to keep me in the dark as well.  My daughter!  The one I carried for 9 months, gave birth to without an epidural, who cried herself silly for 8 straight weeks until she figured out what her thumb was for.  So I made these cupcakes for dessert. about loyalty.


I was astounded when I saw the pink balloons fly out of the box and sail away into the evening.  I really thought it was going to be a boy.  I'm not sure why.  I'm so, so grateful that this time has arrived for Emily and Mike and a grandson would be awesome.  I have a special bond with my daughters and since Emily, my firstborn, told me she was pregnant it has taken me back time and time again to that magical moment when the doctor told me, "You're going to be a mother!"  I remember everything after that moment vividly; a cool fall day, getting in my car and driving across the bridge to my hometown almost in a daze,  straight to my own mother's house.  A passing of the torch then and now.  

One thing I do have to watch is how often and long winded I reminisce about those days.  Giving advice and opinions.  I had no one to help me physically but my mom and sisters were a phone call away.  That was perfect.  It can be so irritating to hear people talk about how things were back in ''their day'.  I just don't want to be that person.  If my kids need my help they can ask. 

So these are very exciting days.  And definitely filled to the brim.  I have my little health issues but there is no room for slowing down.  I try to schedule appointments and run errands in the afternoon so I can write and look at emails in the morning.  When I really have time I have to unsubscribe to a few dozen of these websites.  In the evening I try to work on visiting blogs.  

We are hitting the home stretch at the lakehouse but I still couldn't venture to say when it will be finished.  I get a very uneasy feeling when I think of that moving van coming back with all of our belongings.  Will everything be in good shape?  What should I keep or give away?  How long will it take to unpack and rearrange?  What will we have to replace?  I was talking to my sister in law at Emily's party and she asked if we needed help.  I wanted to cry.  I simply haven't wanted to ask for help because people have so much going on in the summer as it is.  I've often thought as well, don't ask family for help, they will say yes because they feel obligated.  I don't want to do that to anyone.  

Well, I have some flowers to plant in the front yard and it looks like it's going to rain so I'm heading out.  Abby and her boyfriend Tom are going on a short vacation to San Diego tomorrow so she's coming here tonight and we are treating ourselves to a pedicure.  Man, if you could see my heels!

Hope you're having a great week!!!

Jane x

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Helloooooooo!  It's just me.  I know I've abandoned all of you.  But...I think I may have a touch of spring fever.  In between the rain, heat and cold, I've been out in the backyard doing clean up and hesitant planting.  It's a small start since we have been in the low 50's or less most mornings.  It was, however, sort of exciting to work on my little backdoor herb garden.  The abundant oregano comes back every year and I actually have to pull some out or it would eat up the whole bed.  The chives also come back so hardy. 

I made a very conservative trip to my favorite nursery Friday.  I decided the best way to work this early in the spring would be to do things in segments.  So I worked on the area around my patio.  I added basil, thyme, parsley and dill to the herb bed and then some mulch to the beds around my patio.  I've been wanting to add solar lights for some time and Emily found some on Amazon for a great price and simply loves them.  Let me know if you want more info.  I'm going to keep working as I'm between the rain.

Some pretty happenings in a bed along the back of my house.  Things are filling in.  I was really surprised that these little annual pink flowers came back, probably due to our mild weather.  Can anyone remind me of their name?  More space to fill in though.

I found this cute little planter at Antique Farmhouse.  They really have some neat stuff and you have to use restraint!!  ;-D  It's hard to tell in this photo but it has a chicken wire cover that is cute but absolutely useless now that I've added little pots of herbs.  I like that I have a nice compact place to snip herbs while I'm cooking and the scent is so sweet.  I don't grow sage so I have tiny bit of rosemary might remember how much The Husband abhors rosemary.

That little plant wasn't going to do me much good when I like to make rosemary infused olive oil and vinegar, so I have a much larger plant to pot for the patio.  Poor guy hasn't noticed it yet.  He will if he tastes it on his food.


The plants I brought in last fall made it wonderfully over the winter.  This is a perfect window in my family room that faces northwest.  The sun is blinding from about 2:00 p.m. until dusk.  Even my poinsettia is still blooming.  I hope I can move these out soon and reclaim this table!

I mentioned The Husband cleaned out the shed a few weeks ago and my oh my, most of my stuff was looking very shabby, and not in a decorative shabby 'chic' way.  Simple beat up.  I decided to take a trip to Marshall's to get some decorative things for the baker's rack I have on the patio.  I found a cute lantern and some little galvanized buckets that will make cute planters (I'll share later when it's all together.)  I also found these colorful citronella candles.  I thought they were so darn cute.  I really detest the smell but will use them on a really buggy nights.  I also have a small tabletop fan I like to use on the top of the baker's rack~~mosquitoes don't hang around where it's windy.

Spider mums.  So pretty and they last forever like all mums.  I received some gorgeous roses and carnations in a sweet bouquet from Jeff and Deirdre for Mother's Day.  I hope all of you ladies enjoyed yourselves this past Sunday.  For me it is not all about me, although I'm darn proud of carrying those babies around for nine months and then raising them forever, as it goes.  I also honor my mother and grandmothers and aunts and friends, well...anyone who is or knows a mother.  Remarkable people.  My kids know me well and also gifted me with gift card to my favorite nursery and Home Depot.  :-D

I'm moving slowly lately.  If you've read my blog long enough you know I have back issues and on occasion the old back 'gives out'.  I've thought of seeing a specialist but I always shrink away, I blame my weight and think the problem will magically disappear if I lose the weight.  Finally, The Husband asked how long I was going to sit on a bag of ice on my lower back every evening without knowing what real problem was.

I bit the bullet and met with a specialist last week.  I really liked him.  After a detailed history, a physical exam which put me through rigors I would expect in boot camp, and finally a look at x-rays, he told me very seriously that my back was really messed up.  Scoliosis and  spondylothesis.  Big words and yet I bet many of you have one or both of these conditions.  The thing that worries me is the latter, my second to last vertebrae in my lower back slides in and out.  That's why I'm in the most pain.  Without more whining, I have home exercises, they've killed me.  I start physical therapy in a week.  Yeah, it's always something.  But as I sit here, with my ice pack behind my back and a nice little dose of Tylenol every 4 hours (yes, Advil is better but a no no with my meds for my skin), I'm hanging by a thread.  Better days ahead.  It's not life threatening.  And Yay!  I'm doing something about it finally after ten long years!   

This is a recipe that is beyond delicious, perfect for summer and so easy it's disgusting.  Let me ramble.  I buy a Mango Salsa at our Fancy Nancy grocery store at $6.99 for 6 oz.  I stumbled on a recipe that made me much happier and brought it to a Mother's day event.  Abby brought the remains to work and her co~workers loved it.  It's a summer staple.  Please try.

Watermelon Salsa

1 small seedless watermelon, diced small
1 red pepper, diced small
1 yellow, diced small
1/2 red onion, diced small
1 jalapeno, seeded, diced small
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop, chop, chop away.  Depending on the size of your watermelon you may not need all of it.  Look for about 6 cups in ratio to the rest of the ingredients.  Mix everything well and refrigerate for about an hour before serving so flavors meld.  Serve with tortilla chips.  

See all of you soon!


Wednesday, May 4, 2016


It occurred to me that I've met so many new friends that I didn't know, and who didn't know me before the flood in our lakehouse in March of 2015.  So I thought I would do a repost of something that really represented the life we've lived at the lake for the past 25 years.  As it is right now, perhaps we will be ready to get back in mid~summer, but even then it will take a lot of time to unpack and get back to normal.  Lots of work, but happy work.

So this is for all of you who didn't know Jane and Blondie's Journals way back when, and for those that did, a jog of the memory that I hope made you smile when I was at my happiest.  Enjoy!



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. ;-)


Sunday, May 1, 2016


There are some things that are explained best in pictures rather than words (and you know how hard that is for me to do).  Nevertheless...

Once upon there was a young girl and a guy.  They practically grew up together as her Nana and Papa lived next door to him and his family.  He probably pulled on her braids and she most likely tried to keep up with him and her older brothers when they played Running Bases in the street.

These two kids drifted apart and went their separate ways to high school and college.  And then one New Years Eve they ran into each other at a party.  She had just had her heart broken and he was looking for someone to fill his.  They talked and laughed and then kissed...and not like childhood buddies.  

Five years later they were married.  It was more like a family reunion/block party as all of the family and friends knew each other.  It was a joyous occasion.

They found the home of their dreams and if the story can be more ironic, the house was next door to Papa (Nana had passed away), and on the other side of Papa's house was the home of the young man.  The same block where they played tag and sat on porches eating ice cream on magical summer evenings.  He was no longer pulling her hair and she wasn't pinching him.

They adopted a cute little Boston Terrier who quickly became their little baby.  Spoiled beyond belief and loved unconditionally, even when he chewed on the young girls designer shoes.  

They nested and worked and made their house a home.  She gardened and he helped with doing the dishes.  They marveled over the fact that they had not only been best friends for 8 years, but they had a history together that seemed predestined.

And now?  Well, this is a new chapter... 

The young girl and guy, Emily and Michael, will be adding to their happiness this coming November!  A joyous and incredible miracle that will further cement the union of so many families and long time friends.  

I am so incredibly happy that my daughter will now have the happiness and feeling of completion that I felt when I found out I found out I was pregnant with her.  The Husband and I, as well as her siblings, Jeff, Kevin and Abby, are so excited to welcome another new little one into our lives.  

Life is good.  No, life is unbelievably happy and fulfilling and incredibly blessed right now.  

Couldn't wait to share this with you, my friends!

Okay.  Now we can move on to the usual.  Before the onslaught of rain we've been experiencing for the past few days, I was able to pull out some of my favorite things from my newly cleaned out shed. I have several birdhouses and even have some young renters in one close near a bathroom window that I can peek at.  Sparrows that are busy filling their little abode with this and that.  I haven't replenished the bird feeders yet so I added a  handful of my parrot's seed to the window ledge and they loved it.  Unfortunately the dropped seed attracts quick and little critters with names such a Mickey, Minnie and Mighty.  They startle me and I've decided that my feeders need to be hung from some trees away from the patio.  

This is a very old birdhouse that needs some repair and the little entrance drilled larger.  We mostly have sparrows, robins, cardinals and bluejays and they couldn't fit a leg in this.  But its cute, it reminds me of an old run down barn.  

Can you believe I finally packed up all of my rabbits, hares, chicks and eggs last week?  I was pretty lazy and kept trying to convince myself that they were perfect for spring decor.  But the clutter finally got to me and I found a lot of inspiration on Instagram looking at mantels that were beautiful without a huge amount of 'stuff' on them.  I now need to pare down the shelves in my living room and switch around a few things on my coffee table.  And then take a look at the family room and den.  Ugh.

I recently took a long look at my patio which is surrounded by 4 foot hedges.  It's not large and our table with an umbrella takes up a majority of the space.  Yes, that's how small it is.  And then it occurred to me that after all these years of having pots of plants and flowers all over this space, they were 'lost' as they were so close to the ground.  So I got on Amazon and ordered a few urns to raise everything up and make the flowers at eye level when relaxing at the table.  And these were all at bargain prices.  I LOVE Amazon.  Please note I have no affiliation with them.  I finally broke down and bought some solar lights, they were incredibly inexpensive on Amazon and Emily had bought this brand and said they were just perfect.  So my first project once the rain stops is some clean up of the flower beds in this space, adding some mulch, annuals and the pretty lights.  I'm sure Milo will not hesitate to lift his leg on them the minute they are stuck in the ground.  But Emily reassured me, they're waterproof.  I hope so.

I found this cute statue as well.  I like a few small ones here and there and I hinted that for Mother's Day I'd love a birdbath.  I already have one but my yard is large and another one would be perfect.  The one I have now has a hairline crack about 4 inches long and loses water.  Any suggestions as to what I can use to fill it?

A lot of food action going on here.  I had made some pizza dough back in December and froze it.  It was perfect when I took it out of the freezer Friday and let it thaw at room temperature.  You can find the recipe here.

I used what I had in the fridge for the toppings; onion, red and green pepper, broccoli and pepperoni (just on half of it).  I sautéed these veggies for about 3 minutes over high heat in a skillet with a few drops of olive oil just to take the crunch out of them.  Very important  The only cheese I had on hand was a small block of Pepper Jack and I grated it up and topped the pizza off with it.  Then a small sprinkling of salt, pepper, oregano, thyme and pinch of red pepper flakes.  

The sauce is simple.  I never buy jarred sauces anymore.  It's not worth the money nor the preservatives.  I used a 28 oz. can of plum tomatoes in a skillet along with 2 T. butter.  I broke the tomatoes up as I went along and added some chopped garlic (about 2 cloves).  Add more of the same spices you see above as well as 2-3 teaspoons of sugar.  Let it bubble away while you set up the dough on the pizza pan.  Once it's reduced, not too thick or thin, you're good.  

Pizza dough can't be rolled out like cookie or pie dough.  It's very elastic and needs to be stretched.  I have fought with pizza dough to the point where I've wanted to throw it against a wall.  Today I watched this video and them made a super thin pizza/flatbread that made me wonder why I didn't Google it earlier.  

Once the dough is the size of your pizza pan, fold it in half, transfer it to the pan that you've added a small palmful of cornmeal to (keeps the dough from sticking),  and unfold.  Pat and flatten and push into the edges.  Add your toppings and bake at 425 until the crust is browned around the edges.  Cool 5 minutes before cutting. 


In other news, Abigail and Tom moved into their new apartment over the weekend.  The Husband, son Kevin and I drove to the North part of the city.  The expressway and Lake Shore Drive was a mess due to the pouring rain and the last day of the NFL Draft celebration in Grant Park.  Tom's father was there helping to install their T.V. on the wall.  The Husband and Kevin got on the ball putting the bed together and I scoured the bathroom, hung the shower curtain and arranged the guest towels.  Abby was running all of her dishes, flatware and glasses through the dishwasher.  Once the bed was together I added the sheets, duvet and the pretty decorative pillows she bought.  The apartment is small but it has tons of windows and is so bright.  I plan to be the Motherzilla and bring her some potted plants for all of those nice, deep windowsills.  Everything looks wonderful and once she has tidyed everything up I'll have her send me some pictures.  

I'm going to sign off now, I have an early appointment in the city tomorrow with my dermatologist.  My rash is doing wonderful but the side effects are still here; headaches, diarrhea, nausea and tiredness.  I've only actually vomited a handful of times but I fight it all the time.  Still, I am plugging along because for the first time in 20 years I'm not clawing at my skin until it bleeds.  I imagine it will be a few more months of this but I'm going to push on.

Thanks for hanging in with me when I've been posting and visiting so sporadically.  Just love all you guys!  :-)