Sunday, November 27, 2016


In my bathrobe no less~

Hello, it's me...I know you guys know that time is going at warp speed.  Not having Internet/Wifi at the lake is really making it hard for me to keep up on all things I love and need to do.  With the holidays upon us I simply want a smooth ride.  So...many of you asked to read an article from the Northwest Indiana/Southwest Michigan newspaper I write for.  I'm sharing an article from last December.  In fact it's just half of the article and I'll share the rest another tIme soon.  

I am very straight forward about my blog...I share snippets of my life, a little bit of my loves which include cooking, gardening, reading and a myriad of so many other interests.  I never wanted to be  blog which had titles such as, "How to...".  For my newspaper I have a different approach and it suits what I want to share and in the way I want to share it.  Please note the difference and similarities.  I write for a huge community of people from all walks of life.  I strive to reach each and every person who reads this newspaper.  

So enjoy.  You may see photos you've seen before...sometimes bits and pieces from my blog.  It's all relative to me. Let me know how you feel in your comments. ;-D


Ho Ho Ho, Neighbors!   By now I bet most of you are caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  Christmas is my favorite holiday.  I love everything about it...making shopping lists, planning  menus, decorating and everything merry-making.  In the afternoon I have Christmas music playing whether it's on my iPad or TV music channels, and in the evenings I love Hallmark and TCM holiday movies.  I can't help it, I just get a little sappy at this time of year.  My hot mug of cocoa is half full.  :)

It's hard for so many of us to get through the commercialism of Christmas.  It seems to start earlier and earlier.  Our stores are filled with holiday items as soon as the Halloween merchandise is cleared off the shelves.  Our mailboxes are stuffed with catalogs and our email inboxes are full of ads, 'ideas' for gift giving and flash sales.  Every magazine is filled with an overabundance of articles on decorating and recipes and  features on people who live in homes we can't help but envy, decorated beyond what we have the time or budget to do.  I really do not spend a lot of thought or worry about any of these issues, I have learned how to make them work to my advantage. 

I really do love the excitement and anticipation of the holidays, just as I did when I was a little girl.  We are still sometimes overwhelmed with too much way too early.   But I make my lists and peruse those magazines, ripping out pages with ideas and decorating tips and recipes I may want to try.  Store and window displays always make me smile and sometimes you simply can't beat shopping early.  Some people are super good about shopping for gifts all year long, not so much me.  I love the holiday atmosphere; the music, the Salvation Army volunteers.  All of it makes me feel very warm and fuzzy inside.  So I suggest that rather than getting frustrated, grab hold of the reins and go for it.  Check off some boxes on your To Do list and enjoy some hot cocoa and sugar cookies while you're at it! 

I like to get organized to keep everything moving smoothly as I prepare for what I want to be THE best Christmas ever!  I think the little bit of time you invest in getting your ducks in a row saves you an enormous amount of time and energy later in the game.  I have a tendency to jump into gift shopping and then I have a menagerie of unsorted bags piled high in a spare room.  Nothing makes sense.  My Tip #1, put your presents in the appropriate gift box (that I hope you have already purchased ahead of time).  Make sure you enclose the gift receipt if you have one, or keep all of your receipts in a folder or envelope.   Then write the name of the recipient on the box and stack them away until you are ready to start the fun of wrapping gifts---and yes, I said fun!  

My Tip #2.  Get yourself a box or bin, it doesn't have to be fancy.  A little basket or plastic container, something large enough to hold all of your gift wrapping needs: a few rolls of Scotch tape, scissors, some felt tip markers in red and green, ribbon or jute twine, gift tags and bows.  You can keep this container in the area you like to wrap gifts (I do mine on my kitchen island).  When you are ready to call it a day, everything goes back into the bin and you can tuck it in a closet or under a bed, whatever works for you.   My Tip #3.  Keep your rolls of wrapping paper in a small hamper, tall basket or even a plastic bucket, anything that can hold several rolls upright to help you see what you have at a glance. I guess you can call this a tip of it's own but it's just so simple.  To keep those rolls of wrapping paper neat, secure and unwrinkled, take the cardboard roll from a used up roll of toilet paper or paper towels.  Cut a slit all the way through the roll lengthwise, like a little cuff.  When you are finished gift wrapping and still have more paper to use, slide this cuff over the middle.  It will keep the paper neat and ready for your next use.  No sticky tape to peel off which always tears away precious paper.  

Tip #4.  Wrapping paper can be expensive.  And wrapping packages takes time.  I love using gift bags when I can but forget the ones you see in the stores.  I go to a Dollar Store and buy up as many plain white gift bags as I can.  I a have few Christmas themed rubber stamps and three little pads of ink in red, green and brown.  I stamp my little brain out on these bags to hold smaller gifts.  Some inexpensive tissue also jazzes everything up and if you have one or more items in the bag, loosely enfold those in tissue, maybe even winding some twine or ribbon around--it makes the recipient feel like they are getting an abundance of love and thought.  And they are!  To keep my enthusiasm up I often wrap gifts and then at another time add cute tags, ribbon and bows.  The first part is about doing a neat job, the second about creativity.  By having a breather in-between, you will be much more inclined to put your personal touch on the package. 

One last thought on this subject and My Tip #5.  Use your wrapped presents as part of your holiday decor.  After all, by now you have carefully selected cute and festive paper and have lovingly added your sweet's not the time to hide things away (the exception being those for young kiddos, then you have to tuck them away from their prying little fingers!).  I actually have to do this with my daughters well into their 20's. lol!  So, have a pile of gifts on the hearth, some small packages on a cabinet or shelf or on a non-essential stool or chair in the kitchen or dining room.  They will be an added festive touch and brighten any room.

In my photos of holidays past, I'm sharing some little spaces I've decorated for Christmas.  I like to make little vignettes, or groupings that don't take up a lot of room but make a statement.  For a long time I simply took what I had: candles, figurines, and many a snowman, of which I have a big collection, and scattered them on every available surface.  When things are spread out in a room, or worse, throughout the house, you lose the visual impact.  My Tip #6.  Make little arrangements on anywhere you have the space.  I like something cute on my dining table, coffee table a corner of my kitchen countertop, even a window sill.  Whether you do this sparingly or go all out, mix things up; a sparkly candle with a basket of pinecones and potpourri, or a simple collection of angels nested on a bed of greenery.  It catches attention this way.  Grouping in odd numbers always look a bit more attractive as well, not sure why.   

I have to say something about themes.  My tree ornaments are a mish mash of treasures my husband and I found in the very early days of our marriage...nothing fancy.  Then we added handmade gifts that our four children made from their little handprints stamped on construction paper to small wreaths made of shredded wheat cereal and tons of glue!  We've added ornaments from places we have travelled to and of course, as our taste has changed, I've gone from homespun to blingy to nature  inspired.  Still, I enjoy hanging each and every ornament and the memories they bring back.  My personal favorites are the old and traditional glass ornaments that were passed on to me when I lost my parents.  Many are older than I am.  They are precious to me.  

I think it's very special when we can use nature to decorate our homes.  We love flowers from our garden in summer bouquets so why not take a walk around your garden and gather up pinecones, acorns, evergreen sprigs and branches.  Display them in a pretty dish or on a tray.  And that's My Tip #7.   I have a friend who gathers long sticks on her walks, spray paints them white to resemble birch and pokes them into her outdoor planters that also include evergreen and berries that have been given a little sprinkling of silver glitter.  

Inside the house I love using what I can find at the grocery store.  For My Tip #8: I might poke some cloves into oranges and limes to make a fragrant fruit bowl.  Throw in some cinnamon sticks for added natural fragrance.  Potpourri is very inexpensive and much better for your health than air sprays.  You can take the idea a little further by making an arrangement of seasonal fruits like apples, pears, pomegranates, and interesting squash.  Place them in a basket or  on a large platter with greenery as a little nest.  Add a candle or two and you have a lovely table centerpiece.  Use your imagination and perhaps what you have right outside your door.  And have fun while you save money!

I hope you enjoy this post---the first time I've ever done this.  Be back in real time in the next few days.

Jane xx

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


November 2016, Diamond Lake

By now I imagine not many of us are seeing carpets of leaves like this.  At the lake we had an abundance covering the grass and our brick patio.  We planned to go up this past weekend armed with rakes and a leaf blower but we woke up and knew there would be a huge change of plans.  After we arrived the snow started about 3 a.m., with 20+ m.p.h winds.  It was blowing sideways.  If we wanted to clear the leaves we needed shovels, not rakes.  It was even more disappointing that we had invited son Kevin, Mary Clare and little Elsie for the weekend.  It had been so pleasant the weekend before, I thought Elsie would have a ball playing in the leaves and going for a walk along the shore.  I made a stop at the grocery store (we still haven't done a good shopping but we will once we are ready to be there consistently).  I had hot chocolate and marshmallows, Teddy Grahams, pancake mix and bacon for breakfast as well as a few toys to fill a basket just for cold or rainy days.  I think grandmothers do least I'm inclined, but we had to have them cancel, the roads seemed too treacherous.  

November 2016, Summerhouse

This is an opposite view of the picture above.  This is our guest house, or the Summerhouse as we call it.  Note: The same maple tree.  One of the best things I ever did was insist we hang on to this tree when so many were removed to extend our patio and build the Summerhouse.  The mason went around it with the brick pavers and left a circle of drainage around.  It's one happy tree.  I have three birdhouses hanging from it and I love to see the varieties coming and going.  Someday I hope I'll be able to identify a few.  ;-D 

Inside we have made so much progress.  The Husband has been working on the garage which had a lot of damage as one side was just below the bathroom where the pipe broke.  Inside I finally finished unpacking those freaking boxes.  Seriously, it seemed never ending.  And I learned a huge lesson.  You just don't need all the baggage.  I have filled 4 nice size cartons with items for the annual lake yard sale in June.  I have yet to go through the artwork...not much close to my heart any more.  There were times when we hung pieces to fill up space.  Nevermore.  And I'm really happy with not trying to 'fill spaces'.  I think time will tell.  

I've been sharing pics of the progress here on Instagram.  If you want to follow, there is an icon on my sidebar.  I post every two days and you don't have to listen to my drivel as you may find on this blog.  I try not to repeat photos so in this blog post I'm sharing another part of the lake kitchen with open shelving other than the opposite wall which is larger.  I've always kept my glassware on this side but I thought I'd break it up a bit with some cereal bowls and decorative pieces.  It was looking really 'reflective' with the glass.

If I splurged on anything it was new dishes, and I mean everyday dishes.  I have this drive to mismatch everything.  Colors, textures, rustic and refined.  Sometimes this sort of thing confuses people and then again, it might make some think you're on to something they weren't.  ^^ ^^

I chose three patterns of dishes I absolutely loved from Anthropology And continuing the totally random theme I had twelve place settings but spread it out over four of this, three of that, 6 of that.  Totally confusing!  I love to share my insanity.  

2016, Lakehouse powder room 

The Husband and I both chose pedestal sinks.  Say what?  Well, if you know The Husband and I, we totally clash on as many things just as we bond.  It was only natural that he presided over the upstairs bathroom and I, the downstairs powder room.  Sounds like he had more space to design but I have more visitors!!!!  Hard to photograph a small space like this (and keep yourself out of the reflection of the mirror) so it's not such a great shot.  I was really chuffed however, when I want into town on Sunday and visited our little 'junctique" store.  Said 'junctique' store now has a huge collection of gorgeous antique furnishings and a lot of vintage items.  Had I not been in the purge mode I could have really stopped to consider a few things.  Still, I spotted this little old stool and it was love.  I needed something in this bath to break up the pastel, summery feel which was getting a bit overwhelming.  Of course it won't always hold toilet tissue, I don't have that little detail installed yet, but it will be a little something for the kids to climb on to reach the sink and wash their little mitts.  More pics to come...Again, I'm getting the feel and taking my time (so unlike me).

Say hello to my jade plant.  A true hero in my eyes.  This huge guy was almost twenty years old when I bought it at an estate sale.  And I've had it for ten years.  When we first saw the flooded out house I was in such shock that it never occurred to save anything much less potted plants.  The insurance company had a service company pack up and take away our belongings within 2 weeks.  When we began moving back in this past Labor Day, I happened to be in the crowded mess of our garage and behind one of our boats something caught my eye.  And there was my survivor.  It had fallen over at some point as you can see on the somewhat barren left side, but it was 80% green, alive and well.  Eighteen months without water or sun!  It's a succulent but it still amazed me that it beat the odds.  I cleaned him/her up and he/she is thriving in the sun again.  Long live Jade!

And talking about rescue, daughter Abby and Tom had been talking about having a dog for ages.  They visited PAWS Chicago several times and fell in love with this Husky Shepherd mix, Squall.  There were several obstacles, no one to blame.  One night when they were sure they'd be able to finalize everything, the facility was closed for some reason.  Abby lost it many times thinking he wouldn't be there.  But he ultimately was and he's home with them and getting showered with love.  An eight month ball of fun, he is so loving and friendly.  It breaks my heart that he has spent his whole life up until now in a shelter.  Thankfully the rescue animals are housed together in a single room with crates to sleep in.  Makes you believe in happy endings.

And finally, we can't forget the birth of our little granddaughter, Madelyn (affectionately called Maddy).  I can't begin to thank all of you for your kind comments.  Emily read each and every one.  I am loving every minute with her, she is a miniature Emily.  Mike is infatuated with her, and Rusty is quite protective in spite of looking a little envious in this photo.  

We had some scares...I'll try to keep it brief (yeah, right).  Her pregnancy was without a glitch.  She went into labor on November 10th just after midnight.  She called to let me know they were on the way to the hospital and as planned, they would call when all was said and done and they were settled.        About an hour later I received a call from Mike (I sleep with my phone under my pillow.  Doesn't everyone?).  His voice was a little shaky.  The baby's heart rate was going up and down and they had rushed Emily into an operating room.  The Husband and I dressed in about 60 seconds and headed to the hospital, thankfully just 5 minutes away.  But it was insane.  At 2:00 a.m. all the doors were locked with directions to try other doors.  We tried parking in two garages and walked what seemed like blocks only to find we had to try another way in.  By the time we sat down in the proper waiting room it hit me hard.  My daughter was in surgery for the first time and  perhaps this little baby had a serious heart problem.  No one plans this.  I was on the verge of crying when Mike bounded into the room dressed in scrubs from head to toe.  My heart stopped for a second and then he smiled that big smile and gave us the thumbs up.  Man, oh man.  We couldn't see Em or the baby but we were up the next morning.  Emily was in pain and tired.  I was able to stay most of the afternoon and hold this precious bundle while she slept.  Madelyn is doing very well, she rarely cries and sleeps a lot.  Can I say she is loved by tons of family and friends?  I'll share more pictures as she changes, that's for sure!  

I have to also share that my two daughter's in law are both doing very well in their pregnancies.  We are so excited to have even more babies in the family.  It's not overwhelming at all, I'm just loving this new phase in my life.  And please have a look at the most recent picture of Elsie on my sidebar from her Christmas photo shoot.  Isn't she precious?  She is growing and changing by the minute.  We all just love her so much.  

And in summary, can you believe Thanksgiving is in two days?  I'm feeling pretty good about delegating a few main dishes to those who wanted to help.  Hopefully I can focus on being with the family.  I have tons to do in decluttering a few rooms.  We have, at last count, 26 coming for dessert. Sounds unbelievable but as Nana used to say, "I love a crowd.  People mingle."  As if they could do anything else.   Dinner is pretty manageable but I like extended family and friends for dessert and we love to go well into the night.  Many times we've reheated appetizers and made a batch of popcorn.

My first newspaper article for the Chicago suburb paper was published last week.  I bought three copies.  It was and is an incredible feeling.  A few years ago I never would have thought I'd be here.  Blogging has been invaluable in helping me with writing.  So many of you have given me encouragement over the years with my writing.  I want all of you to know that I have always fallen back on that when I've thought I couldn't possibly be published.  

 I'll end my long droning on with a wish for all of you, my friends.  Have a wonderfully perfect, festive and blessed Thanksgiving.  I have a huge amount of thankfulness for your friendship, encouragement and all around interest in this little old blog.  Sending good wishes and love,


Jane x

Thursday, November 10, 2016


NOVEMBER 10, 2016
2:21 A.M.
7 LBS., 7 OZ.
20 IN.




Thursday, November 3, 2016


Hello November.  I am so happy to see you in all your glory (finally).  I wish I had a picture of the yellow leaves from the many walnut trees in my backyard.  It's a natural carpet.  Sometimes when I let the dogs out and stand on the porch it seems to be raining leaves.  We've had a lot of rain lately and I absolutely love how the leaves are matted to the ground, glistening and showing no sign of being swept away.  

I'm also loving bringing out my sweaters and boots.  I like small doses of muted colors, there's something about the earthy colors and layers.  Are we mimicking fall?  Wanting to stand out against the cold gray skies of winter?  We know how to dress for the elements here.  And we're smart.  And of course, I love an excuse to switch up my wardrobe.  

I want to share an article I recently read online.  I think you guys know that I devour information; fact, fiction, trivia, pop culture and name it.  I thought I'd share some links here and there  in some of my posts in case the subjects interests you.  

Perusing Yahoo News, I came across an article regarding the 'correct age' a woman should stop wearing jeans.  Did your jaw just drop?  Read the article here.   


Now you know I wasn't going to post without mentioning the big win by the Chicago Cubs last night.    What a game.  Emotions were up and down much like we were from our seats (or stools).  We (mostly family) met at an Irish pub that my sister in law owns here on the Southside. and had a nice table in front of several TV screens.  I loved that one was closed captioned.  We had a ball; pizza, buckets of beer and lots of high fives.  I nearly didn't go out at all and I'm so glad I did.

Me and Abby.  I'm the one with my hat askew.  

Emily couldn't be there as she s due to have the baby any time now.  Son Jeff has been literally flying back and forth between Chicago and Cleveland.  He Face Timed us around the 8th inning.  I could be wrong but I sort of felt he wished he were here with us in Chicago celebrating although there wasn't a huge lack of Cub fan at Progressive Field.  

What a night!  The parade is tomorrow.  I had an appointment downtown and rescheduled it.  It will be craaaaaazy.  Abby. who lives just a few blocks from Wrigley Field has been a regular guest here.  Even when the Cubs were away, the celebrating in Wrigleyville was loud.  As our mayor, Rahm Emanuel said, "For once we don't have to say, 'Well, there's always next year'!"

No, no, no.  I am not wrapping Christmas gifts yet, I pulled this from last years photo files.  I was thinking about the reasons I didn't decorate for fall.  Other than some little pumpkins and a basket of apples, nothing.  On Halloween (was that just four days ago?) I went downstairs to my storage/hoarding room to find an orange scarf I like to put on Milo.  The room is chaotic with messy cartons and bins which were once categorized by the seasons and holidays.  It has become an aching pain in the arse as it's such a disaster and it's going to take forever to get in order.  In order to have decorated with some of the really cute things I have for fall, I would have had to move some of the clutter from my living spaces.  That would mean bringing it down to storage and making a bigger mess.  I'm spewing secrets here.  

I have a major goal to declutter before Thanksgiving.  I am going to pack up everything I don't need or hold close to my heart and add it to the lakehouse pieces for the lake garage sale in June.  Need is the key word here.  No matter which store I walk into; Target, HomeGoods, Kohls or Marshall's...there is never really going to be anything I need.  What I need is a diversion for when I feel cooped up.  This mess has finally caught up with me.  

I hear so many of us say that we are going to go lighter on this or that holiday, we are going to purge clutter.  Boy, I'm right there with everyone else.  I'm on a mission now and I hope as these next few months go by that I can share some of the things I'm going to do to resolve this problem.  In the meantime I want to share another article I read that might give you food for thought.  It's about clutter and you can find it here.  I've read many similar articles on this subject but this actually makes sense.  See a little pattern going on?  I want to pass some interesting ideas along to you as I find them relating to my life.  Simply click the link if you think it might be interesting.  

I am super influenced when a blogger recommends a book, in this case, books.  In a short description I can decide if it sounds interesting to me.  I then go to Amazon and read the low down and reviews.  Sometimes I hit the Order Now and the following day it's on my porch.  These books are by author Ellen Stimson.  To quote the cover of her first book, Mud Season: "How one woman's dream of  moving to Vermont, raising children, chickens and sheep and running The Old Country Store, pretty much led to one calamity after another."  And there is a continuation of her story in Good Grief.  The last book is a great hardcover of the author's traditions, recipes and photos for an old fashioned Christmas.  

I want to thank Courtney who writes the blog Golden Boys And Me, who made me dive in head first to order.  I can't wait to curl up in my favorite chair once the wind starts to howl and immerse myself in these books.   And by the way, you will love Courtney's blog so sign up to follow!

I so apologize for not giving you the correct link for the newspaper, The Reporter, that I will now be writing for.  I was really chuffed that some of you wanted to have a peek.  This is the correct website.  As far as viewing  the paper online, you will need to check that out...I don't think it will be for free.  After my article is published the third week of every month I think I'll post it here if you'd like.  

I can write between 500 to 600 words in my column.  When I submitted my article yesterday (and believe me, I had writer's block and extreme anxiety beforehand), I used a website called Word Counter Tool.  I had to revise and edit my article a few times as I kept going over my allotment.  I know all of you are well aware that my blog posts are veeeeeeery long.  For the heck of it I copy and pasted my December 2015 article for the Michigan newspaper on the website.  That's it above.  I knew it had to my longest article and yep, hang on to your hats... 16,616 words.  I've often felt I don't write posts, I write essays.  If you guys skip or skim I totally don't blame you.  

On that note I'm going to wind this post up.  And it is with something that is very special.  Son Kevin and Mary Clare are expecting another baby in May!  I am so, so excited for them.  Elsie will have a little brother or sister.  They are just so good at parenting, I just know that as their family grows, we will all be blessed.  So... three of my four kids are expecting.  The odds against something like that is  like the odds against the Cubs winning!  Emily and Mike are ready for Madelyn Elsie to be here next week.  Son Jeff and Deirdre will welcome their baby in early February, and then Kevin and MC will add to their little family in May.  It is raining babies!  Say a prayer for all of these special people.  I'll keep you posted!

See you all soon!

Jane x

P.S.  On a totally different side note I want to mention something about what I wrote in my last post regarding finding a ton of my treasures in the dumpster at the lakehouse.  I think the way I worded it made it looks like The Husband had tossed this stuff away and that's my fault.  So I have to correct myself and let you know it wasn't him (believe me, he'd be walking bent over right now).  The service people hired by the insurance company cleaned out a section of the garage that had water damage.  Sadly, it looks as if they were in a hurry as they tossed a lot of good stuff.  Gladly I was able to salvage most of it.