Sunday, July 31, 2016


I am technically still on vacation, we leave bright and early at 10:45 tomorrow morning and with the time change we will be home at 11:15 a.m.  Love that.  And it's just enough time for a short nap~~from takeoff to landing.  I have motion sleepiness.  
Seriously; planes, cars, trains.  It's a great way to pass the time snoozing but not when I'm driving and it has happened on long boring trips.  Coffee is seriously needed.

You know I have to start off a post with a pretty photo.  My flowers are doing well despite the heat and I didn't have to worry about them as Chicago has been deluged with rain.  Then again that causes the weeds to pop up everywhere, but as long as we have cooler weather this coming week I can play in the garden.  I miss that a bit and Milo and Layla (a lot).  

It was great to walk in the door of our little place here in the mountains.  The weather was sweltering but we were really excited to see Asheville in the summer.  In the 5 years we've been here we've only come in the spring and fall.  The lakehouse keeps us busy from April until September. 

 We hit the pool right away and I wish I had brought my camera or phone but I was thinking all that I needed and wanted was my water and sunscreen.  I was really tying to get away from the media other than a little Instagram to document the trip.  Thanks for the 'likes' ladies.  I'm guessing it was in the low 90's and in the few steps from our lounge chairs to the pool my feet felt like I was walking on hot coals.  In spite of the heat we enjoyed ourselves.  The pool is large and sparkling clean.  There is a hot tub that can probably hold 20 people.  That's a lot of fun in the evening when it gets cooler, you really get to know people as the conversation starts to flow.  There's also a fire pit which is also great for cool nights.  This area is surrounded by black wrought iron fencing, brick and stone walls, gorgeous hedges and blooming plants.  The only thing it needs is a little bar and waiter, and perhaps a few cabanas.  Ha!  Although the 90 degree heat continued all week, this was our one and only trip to the pool but as you can see from the above pic, I enjoyed time on our balcony to kick back and relax in the shade.  Fresh air always makes me feel alive.

This was the year of trying new things, mostly restaurants we had never been to and parts of Asheville we weren't familiar with.  I don't want to go into restaurant reviews but I took a few photos here and there to give you the feel of some of the wonderful eateries and great food we had.

My sister in law was here last month with her daughters and they gave us a gift certificate to a restaurant right here in Biltmore Village.  Cantina is fantastic...gourmet Mexican food.  We had dinner there twice, both times dining al fresco (my favorite).  Funny, we had never heard of it.  

And how can you not celebrate your first night at home in the mountains without an after~dinner drink?  we dined at 2 other 'new to us' restaurants, Chestnut and Fig.  We met long time friends at each restaurant.  I can't rave enough about the food in Asheville.  I have written a few restaurant reviews for social media but on my own blog I simply like to tell you about great places with great food.  These 2 equal good times.  

Fig is tucked away in a courtyard just a bit beyond where the shops taper off in Biltmore Village.  We are really happy with the area in which we chose to have our home away from home.  It seems like new shops and restaurants pop up every year.  But back to Fig.  We met up with some of our favorite people and had such a wonderful time it was miraculous we stopped talking enough to eat.  The menu is American with some perfect French touches and I like that the chef creates new and delicious dishes all the time. Our waitress was very sweet, you know when someone loves their job.  

Look at these Prince Edward Island mussels, we had them as an appetizer. We just can't get this quality seafood in the Midwest.  In the simple broth I detected (Yes, me, Inspector Clouseau) some garlic and kick and something earthy which balanced it quite nicely.  Just perfect.  I'm going low carb again so when I asked to substitute the potatoes in my dinner with another veggie, I was served the most fresh and greenest cut green beans immersed in a wonderful sauce under my steak.  Whenever The Husband cleans his plate he tells the waitress, "I didn't like it."  Always funny.  Well, we all could have said that.:)

We returned to Fig Friday night for a drink in the courtyard.  The weather was finally feeling a bit cooler and we felt so comfortable, full and content tucked away in this special little place.

I hope you can check out some of the restaurants we've loved in Asheville, hence the links.  We also had dinner at Corner Kitchen and Rezaz.  All of these are near our place in the village but for Chestnut, which is in downtown Asheville.   LAB (Lexington Ave. Brewery) is perfect for a mid afternoon snack and a local brew.   I don't like to use pics from the Internet so this is what you get.  So many times you miss the scenery in the moment when you're trying to capture it in photos.  It's not the same.  

Over the years I've shared pictures with you guys of downtown Asheville trying to capture the vibe, cool art scene and eclectic shops.  Sometimes you have to turn away from the shop windows and look at the beauty.  This is a city that has respect for its streets, sidewalks and parks. I'm always in awe by the scenery and the friendly shop and restaurant owners.  

I love stopping to listen to street musicians...

We drove past this wall and I told The Husband we just had to go back to it after we parked.  For some reason the "Before I Die" resonated with me more than the good 'ol Bucket List.  The latter sounds a bit...playful, and there's nothing wrong with that.  I watched people reaching in the pail for chalk; pondering a bit, laughing and talking with strangers, and for a few good minutes I felt a true sense of community and humanity.  I'm not going to start waxing poetic, I simply feel such a yearning for world peace for the sake of all the dreamers who believe hopes and dreams and goals are still attainable, and of course for our children.   

Here's a close~up.  I love them all, from, "Marry my best friend", to "Swim w/ the sharks".   The enthusiasm is catchy, no?  My contribution, "World Peace".   

We found new areas of Asheville to explore.  I had to take a snap of this shop.  I thought of some of my blog friends who love to knit and crochet;  Shelia, Helen, Meredith and Tammy to name a few.  Don't you just love the little sheep?  Is that a black sheep?  That would definitely be me. ;-D

We had been by the historical Grove Park Inn many times but never stopped.  It opened way back in 1913.  When we visited a few days ago we simply weren't prepared.  Without modern machinery in 1909 when construction began, mules pulling sleds and wagons brought in huge boulders down from the mountains.  This is a view of the inn I captured in a photo from one of the newer wings.  We walked and read all of the information posted here and there on the walls.  So many past presidents stayed at the inn while speaking at various venues in Asheville.  President Obama actually took a 2 week vacation here with his family last year.  And a host of dignitaries, writers, artists and movie stars from waaaaay back also enjoyed this magnificent inn.  The Husband and I sat in a little pub area off the lobby where we had a cocktail and a plate of small bites; roasted cauliflowers with cheese and garlic and a sweet pea mint sauce.  You can bet I'm going to try to duplicate this.  

You can see the mountains in the distance beyond this 18 hole golf course.  Maybe I can entice my boys visiting using this as bait.  ;-D 

I am so grateful for the friends I've made in Asheville through blogging.  Just the best.  We were so lucky to meet up with a takes perfect timing.  I received this lovely gift from one sweet friend.  All of you ladies, please know I enjoy when we can get together and pick up like there aren't miles between us.  Friendship.  How lucky we are to have it, even 'across the miles'.

I have to stop here.  I'll post a bit more later, I just wanted to touch base.  I love vacations but I really do miss those darn dogs.  I simply can't think about them or I get very down.  We have a house/dogsitter but I know 'normal' life with The Husband and I is something that keeps them calm.  My kids tell me I'm becoming neurotic about them but really, Milo has seizures when he's upset and Layla pretty much loses her bladder function all over the place when she's frightened by anyone new.  The bare truth!

Off I go.  Oh, I wanted to mention that I'm having a glitch on my laptop with sending emails directly to you from your comments.  I feel it's more important to visit your blog when I see a comment yet I'd like to respond to a question and that thought gets lost in the process.  So if you don't get an email from me, please know I'll be prompted to visit you as soon as possible 

Welcome August.  Hopefully smooth sailing!

Have a great week...

Jane x

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Hello Friends.  It's just little 'ol me.  I simply can't believe that summer is so far along.  I wrote my August newspaper column the other day (yes...we do it way ahead of time) and I suggested the idea of a fifth season.  From mid~August to the end of September, perhaps.  That bit of lull we have when summer is waning (as well as our heat tolerance) and the anticipation of cooler weather, shorter days and the coziness of moving back indoors begins to look welcome.  Yep, I think an additional season is a winning idea.

I'm just sharing a few pictures from the garden that look pretty darn good in spite of the heat we are having.  We've had some good rain recently, but unfortunately it spawned tornado's to the west of Chicago.  Severe weather is now predicted and broadcasted so much better than before, I assume a result of better technology.  It's truly prepares us but it also sets off a lot of anxiety for me (and others) who have a deep fear of threatening weather.  The Husband had to pry me from the TV the other night at 11:00 p.m. as I clutched my flashlight and phone.  I don't think I'll change.  Is ignorance bliss?  Or just plain stupid?

One of my younger sisters once said that she always started out gardening in the early spring with a ton of energy in buying, planting and tending her garden.  By August she was tired of it all and could care less if everything died.  I sometimes feel that way.  Maybe I was a little over zealous in the spring and planted more flowers than I could take care of.  I really love potted plants as I can surround my patio with them...the borders of my yard are a little far off to appreciate the color and beauty unless you take a little stroll.  Back in June I would meticulously water and weed and sweep my patio.  Well, I'm not so  fussy now.  But the other day I had to make a run to Home Depot and the prices on perennials were outstanding.  Of course I came home with a few: some Shasta daisies, coneflowers and Carpathian Harebells.  I picked up a cell pack of impatiens to fill in some pots that had lost a few flowers.  Heck~~~we do have some time before that fifth season!  I'll never have as much time here in the city to play with my garden as I've had this summer and last.  The time at the lake and the gardening there makes it overwhelming to come back here and go at it again.  So plants that come up year after year make me very happy.  :-D

I've dogsat granddog Tulo two weekends in a row.  My son needs to book him in the doggie hotel a little more in advance.  I truly love this 100+ pound ball of happy fur and he's very much at home here, but you can see how cramped his style is. This is my favorite little room, the den.  The Husband and I usually watch a movie together on Saturday night.  I joked with my son that his bathrooms are larger than my den (seriously...and all 5 of them).  Then again, Tulo might like the coziness.  He's actually an English Cream Retriever but Jeff gets him groomed almost like a Lab in the summer to keep him cool.  Isn't he beautiful?

Emily took this precious picture of Elsie at her home recently.  I think it's the angle but our little girl is only 17 months.  She looks about 2 here!  She's really learning to talk and as I've mentioned before, we have her here about 3 hours every Thursday night while the parents get out.  Sometimes I think, "What will we do for fun tonight?"  No worries.  Playing outside, dinner or a snack, taking a walk or a ride in her 'whatever it is thingie she sits in while you push with one handle'.  Some play inside with Grandfather amusing her as only he can and then clean up and PJ's.  When Kevin walks in she jumps up and down and giggles like, "Ha!  See where I've been!".  

I'll try not to bombard you with pictures of her but it's hard.  I don't take a lot, but Emily has her all day on Thursdays and gets some great shots.  

And speaking of the Mother To Be, she is more than halfway along in her pregnancy.  She continues to work and do more than she should.  She's always been a busy bee and very driven.  But I'm grateful she's taking some naps and really watching certain food that are 'new to me' harmful.  Sometimes she can be outright paranoid.  For example, we had lunch at a restaurant recently and the conversation sort of went:

Emily:  "Does your water taste funny?"
Me:  "Not at all"
Emily:  "My Coke tastes weird, too."
Me:  "Okay."
Emily:  "I'm just going to drink my water."
Me:  "Fine."
Emily:  "Do you want to use my hand sanitizer?"
Me:  "No, why?"
Emily:  Well, you are touching things on the table and then you'll get in my car."

Finally.  On the way home.  The killer.

Emily:  "Mom. You keep scratching your head.  Can you please stop?"
Me:  "Why?  Does it bother you?"
Emily:  Well, yeah.  I don't want dead skin follicles all over my car."

Someone please trade places with me.  ;-(

I made fish and chips for dinner the other night.  I love fish and know that it's healthy.  Fried food is not so healthy but I figure the good~for~you fish might cancel out the bad grease.  Sort of like ordering a diet pop with french fries.  People laugh at that but I think it's a great balance.  A win~win. it for one of those days when you want something greasy and salty.  Be prepared to spend about an hour cleaning up your stovetop afterward.  ;-D

Jane's Fish & Chips

1 to 1 1/2 lb. fresh cod
I egg swished around with a whisk or fork

1 1/2 t baking soda
2 c flour
2 t salt and pepper

1 to 1 1/2 c canola oil
2 T malt vinegar (optional)

Cut pieces of cod into 4 pieces.  Mix together flour mixture while you heat up the oil and vinegar in a deep pan over medium to high heat.  Dip the fish in the egg and dredge in the flour mixture.  Fry approximately 2 minutes on each side.  Do not let them over~brown.  Keep the thinner pieces of cod toward the sides of the pan.  Remove to a plate and cover with foil until ready to serve.  

My simple tartar sauce is a mixture of mayo, pickle relish and a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.  Play and fun.

For the chips I cut 4 medium size Idaho potatoes (after washing them) into 1/4 inch slices.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and brush the potatoes with a bit of canola oil...Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt (add a bit more after cooking).  Bake at 425 for approximately 20 minutes until tender, but watch closely.  

Recipe serves 4.  Enjoy!!!!

Okay..drumroll!  The winner of this book is Mary Alice at Chateau Chic.  I appreciate so many of you who expressed interest in this book...I'm still plowing away at this one and the prequel.  Good reading  It's okay to read more than one book at a time, right?  Mary Alice, congrats and please email your address.

I'm up to my ears in things I need to do this week.  We leave for Asheville for 9 days this Saturday.  I'm going 500 miles away but acting like I'm going to Bora Bora.  We have a washer and dryer at the condo but I pack as if I need 8 outfits a day.  I would like to get a pedicure and perhaps a new dress or pair of sandals but we'll see.  Longtime followers know how neurotic I can be when I take a trip.  I'm also working on Emily's baby shower along with her mother in law.  And the countdown to getting back into the lakehouse seems to be just around the corner so I'm running around like crazy looking for drapes and bedding and linens for which the insurance company will later reimburse us.  I haven't been there in 12 months...The Husband goes (he doesn't mind a port-a-potty and a sandwich from a gas station), and I can see from his cell phone photos that I have cabinets, a pretty floor, a beautiful staircase and a shiplap ceiling in the kitchen.  Joanna Gaines would be proud.  Seriously, can't wait to share this.

I am done with physical therapy but I had an episode with my back going totally awry a few weeks ago.  Seriously bad.  I had an MRI and it was beyond having a 'bad back', as I've called it for the past few years.  5 bulging disks and severe nerve root problems around two lower vertebra.  For the wise and medical/insurance people I know...this is it.  The bad and ugly.  I know the PT routine and now do it at home.  My physician provides great incentive for me, I really like and respect him.  Do the exercises, get to a gym and drop the weight.  The ball is in my court or he will be fusing my spine together with metal screws in a year.  I'm definitely moving on that.  What a guy.  He never made me feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.  How can you feel offended when a doctor straight out tells you that you are young and your health is in your own hands?  Wish me luck.   

We leave Saturday and I'll bring my laptop.  I usually have a little time here and there when The Husband goes trout fishing or to this falconry place he found to risk have his nose bitten off by a real hawk landing on his arm.  The bait is a hunk a raw meat.  I've heard the expression that you can't 'unsee what you've seen'.  In this case I can't 'unsee' something gross that's best left to avid viewers of the National Geographic channel.  Facing your fears is something that's very big these days~some of them might even be on your 'Bucket List".  Mine include trying ice cream with peanut butter in it, and using a gas station restroom.  

Off I go.  I'll report from beautiful Asheville, North Carolina in a few days.  

Jane x 


Friday, July 8, 2016


Happy Weekend!  I've been trying and trying to sit down and write but it escapes me.  I'm still having these pesky old (and I mean old age) medical problems and I feel I'm coming and going to and from clinics to the point where its just routine.  Milo and Layla think I have a job, they barely glance up from their favorite chairs when I slide into my flip flops and race out the door every afternoon.  Same routine, light therapy Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and physical therapy Tuesday and Thursday.  Lots of bumps in the road with that but let's start off the post positively.  ;-D

With all the rain we've had the grass is brilliant green and my hedges have had to be trimmed twice in the past 6 weeks.  But we've also had many super hot days in the high 80's and 90's and it's miserable to step outside sometimes.  With fluctuating temps there has been a lot of severe weather.  A few weeks ago several tornado's touched down west of us.  Three nights ago I woke up in the middle of the night for a drink of water and as I looked out the kitchen window the rain was pounding the streets and the trees were blowing like crazy.  At the same time there was thunder and  lightening was flashing every few seconds.  I hadn't heard it over the air conditioning and standing fan (in spite of scary winds we still love to sleep in a hurricane environment). Always ready for a catastrophe, I gathered my candles, matches and flashlight.  We were good but I did lose a good 2 hours of sleep.  I know many of you are dealing with Mother Nature's fury.  Be ready.  Hold tight.  Wake your hubby every 5 minutes after those alerts on your eighteen weather apps.  I do that.

From the little I know about ornamental grass, I'm thinking this is ornamental grass.  I think a special little bird dropped seeds in my Woodland Garden.  I think it looks like wheat with a pinkish tinge.  I think it needs a name.  It's a little random among the lilies and columbine.  I'd love to get more to create some bigger clumps.  I think I need help.  Please?

Love these Asiatic lilies.  I used to grow them and once my yard became shadier it didn't work out.  They make for a pretty arrangement indoors but I have to say the smell a bit too strong for me.  I recently spread a store bought bouquet amongst three vases the kitchen, dining area and living room.  Everyone wanted to know what the odor was (odor~~not scent).  I do have some yellow, red and pink lilies popping up so soon I can cut a few of those and not insult any visitors.  Gee, maybe Yankee Candles can try to copy this scent with something called Afternoon Funeral.

So we go back and forth outdoors, me and the hounds, pulling a few weeds in the cool morning when the grass is still damp and the humidity hasn't settled in.  In the late afternoon I sit on the patio with my latest book and they lay in the grass with their ears and noses twitching.  With the weather being so wonky we've had very few al fresco meals.  I did have Emily and Mike over for dinner last week and it it just happened to be a PERFECT night.  I set up the candles and napkins and glasses ahead of time and once we filled our plates we headed out.  It was gorgeous.  I wish I had my head on a little straighter and thought to invite the kids over more for dinner or even a Sunday brunch.  As it is now, summer keeps us spread out even further.  I spoiled Emily and Mike with sautéed sea scallops, prosciutto wrapped asparagus bundles, and wild rice with peas and carrots.  Sounds fancy but truly very easy and quick.  And anything and everything tastes perfect outside as the sun sets.

We have to grab these moments when we can, and frankly, as I run around like a chicken with my head cut off, I've started to care less and less about fluffing the house, rotating things around from spring to summer and organizing way too many objects on my counters.  Now let me say, I will never lose my love for nesting and creating a a home where family and friends are welcome and comfortable.  I have enough cr*p in my arsenal downstairs to change up shelves and tables and mantels for years to come.  But I run short of time (and steam).  There will be time, a better time when I'm not running around like a whirling dervish and I'll fiddle and fuss, but for now, this new mantelscape is brought to you by a harried woman hobbling downstairs to do some laundry and finding she can balance a few summery pieces on the pile of warm towels.  Voila!

May I mention that the Hallmark Movie Channel is featuring movies under the theme of 'Christmas in July'.  Oh, yeah.  I'm eating it up.  As much as I love those movies in November and December, I'm spread pretty thin then so it's great to catch a few I missed.  :D

That cute little Elsie is with us every Thursday night and we love having her.  She is really infatuated with Grandfather (The Husband).  I wonder about it that he looks like Kevin?  His voice?  Maybe he's just more charming than me...gulp.  Our time flies.  Since we both love to be outside we play in the backyard for a bit and then she wears me out walking around the block...more than once.  Of course she's on her little push contraption a lot (see how lame I am with the new generation of baby things?!!).  Some nights we have not so great weather and we do what we can in the house.  I've often said we live in a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle house.  Rather than it being upside down it just twists and turns with a series of halls and rooms off each one.  Elsie is very intrigued by this.  She also gets distracted by our pet, parrot.  She understands she can't go near the cage, Nina is a biter.  Elsie still loves when she chirps,  tries to make conversation and flaps her wings like a show off.  We keep the creature tucked away in the guest room and can close the door.  We keep a lot of the doors closed as you wind through Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's house and Elsie is that age where when she wants something she lets us know!  Bang, bang, bang on the doors!  I had so many kids close in age that they all kept each other amused.  This is new and so much fun.  

I'm off now.  We are getting up early to take a drive up to the lake.  We are just a few weeks off from completion.  Floors in, new appliances in, my kitchen shiplap ceiling is up.  We have a new staircase with wrought iron spindles.  I understand we are just waiting for some details like light fixtures, trim, and paint.  

Our Summerhouse (guest house) has been closed up since the fall of 2014 (the damage occurred in March, 2015).  I'm bringing a bucket and cleaning supplies and opening up all the windows and cleaning the heck out of that place.  It was my sanctuary.  It's the most I can do right now.  The Husband wants to trim, fertilize and water the boxwood hedges, those are his babies.  I'll do my best to weed the garden beds.  With my whacko back I doubt we will be able to move out any of the patio furniture.  I don't even know if the marina delivered our boat in the spring.  It's just been a chaotic juggling game.  Such a balancing game of so much happening in our lives.

I am having a giveaway.  If you think about the last two I've had it's usually because I've ended up with two of something or something I just didn't need and someone would benefit from.  Vicki from Life In My Empty Nest recommended this book and its prequel Lunch in Paris.  Somehow I received two of this one and strangely, this copy came from Germany with no info on how to return it!  So it's up for grabs.  I suggest you read the reviews here at Amazon and decide if its your cup of tea.  I love a memoir, France and recipes in a book.  These books have me fascinated and I'm switching back and forth between the two.  Thanks, Vicki.  The giveaway is only open until my next post.  Just leave a comment that you are in.  I have a much needed trip to the post office and if you can imagine the posts offices in a huge city...well, you avoid them!!

Happy Weekend!

Jane x

***Oh!  One final thing...I am so, so tired I am not re-reading this for grammatical errors.  Please have mercy! :-D

Tahnsk, Jnea!