Wednesday, November 22, 2017


I'm sneaking in here as quick as I can before Thanksgiving, hoping you'll have a read either before, or if not, after the long weekend.  And for that weekend, I'm hoping to escape to the lake.  Playing it by ear.  

How quickly time is flying.  I'm up to speed on my work/writing, I even have short pause with the lake newspaper, publication goes on hiatus until March.   Once I know that area of my life is in check, I have time to try to get ahead on other things.  

Aren't these the most gorgeous cream colored roses?  I found the box on the porch this morning, wrapped just perfectly to keep them fresh and moist.   I thought maybe I had ordered something 'live' for the holidays and forgot.  Well, these were from Overstock.  And I mean they were a gift, a thank you from Overstock.  I guess I've been a pretty good customer over the years.  I recently rated my purchases on their website, maybe that made me worthy of a dozen roses.  Great company.

Lest you think I'm some sort of whirling dervish, I start every holiday season out like this.  I want to get ahead.  I want to feel like I can enjoy all of December without distraction and stress, you know-just really embrace the season.  If I have a lazy afternoon--make some sugar cookies, or work on a cross stitch ornament project that I started fifteen years ago.  

I've made great headway, both out and about, and online shopping as well.  It's keeping up with the wrapping that's hard.  Here I have a small start, I just have little Post It notes on each gift for now.  I need a trip to Michael's for some ribbon, jute and embellishments.  That's my favorite part of wrapping gifts.  I always find really cute gift tags in the $1 bins at Target, or should I say $3 bins?   Anyway, as long as I stay up to par wrapping, I'll be good.  It always seems UPS arrives just when I think I've wrapped the last present.

I'm excited about decorating the house as well.  I may do a little Christmas tour.  Two of my nieces, Maggie and Tricia, are coming next week to help.  I think it's a great bonding time, I sincerely miss the days so long ago that Emily and Abby worked a little magic around the house, and with our tree.  And I really love fresh ideas.  It will be fun, I'm giving them full creative license!

I've been doing a little winter clothing shopping as well.  I'm just starting to really clear all the summer stuff out of my dressers and closet, and as it always goes, I find myself lacking in decent winter clothes.  I've never really cared much for digging through the racks at Marshall's, but I'm liking that lately.  Shopping online can be a little disconcerting when it comes to clothing.  Sometimes you need to feel the fabric or see the quality.  These boots are a perfect example.  I wanted a nice pair of black boots to wear with anything from leggings to skinny jeans, to a dress with tights.  These Calvin Klein's are really cool.  Velvet in the front, leather in the back, gold details, and a small chunky heel.  However---I am embarrassingly short.  These go well over my knee in the front and pinch in the back when I sit down.  Grrrrr... I still love them.  What's a little pain if you feel marvelous?  By the way, I found these at 6pm.  If you've never been to the website, go.  Now.  Maybe measure yourself a bit first.  

I've really been in a cooking mood.  I'm still making a list of recipes to try before I grocery shop, but right now, with lists swirling in my head, I'm mostly operating on the mode of using what I have.  I happened to see a package of super thin pre-made pizza crusts at one of the stores I shop at.  I wish I could remember the brand, but you can probably find it where you see the Boboli crusts.  Despite what you think about Chicago pizza, we love both a thick and thin crust.  I personally think a thin crust just needs a little topping.  Just as I make a soup or stew with all those extra veggies in the fridge begging to be used, I did the same with the pizzas I made.  This one had a little red sauce I threw together, fresh zucchini, sliced red onion, small heirloom tomatoes, a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese and a little Italian seasoning.  No meat, no grease, and really quick.  The Husband gave it a thumbs up.  

I wanted to share a picture of my grandson, Brooks.  I can't believe he's going on 10 months old.  Isn't he going to be a lady killer?  He is son Jeff and Deirdre's little boy.  Busy schedules aside, we will be making up for lost time over the holidays.  If you look on my sidebar, you'll see a recent pic of him.  Oh, those blue eyes.  And now I have to have another daddy and mama give me a picture of Patsy, who is now 6 months old.  And yes, another blue eyed angel.  

Emily sent this picture of little Mad.  Look at that joyous face and sweet outfit.  Sadly, this was taken when she was on the exam table at the pediatrician just before her flu shot.  Ouch!  Not smiling too much after that, I'm sure.  I remember when my babies had their shots, I'm not sure who cried more.  I will say, they never looked this happy in the exam room before the shot either, this baby is the happiest little squirt you've ever seen.  Furthermore, who else would dare go to the doctor without wearing their tulle skirt and gold shoes?

So, I bet all of you have your Thanksgiving plans down; the turkey thawing and the bread slices drying out on the kitchen table.  I never went that route with my stuffing, as much of a traditionalist I might sound.  My late sister, Leslie, worked at Pepperidge Farm for twenty-five years, and I fear I'd be disloyal if I didn't use their mix.  In fact, I didn't see it when I was shopping the other day, and came thisclose to buying Brownberry.  Then I found it, and sighed as I looked toward the heavens.  I mean, she kept me well stocked with their cherry turnovers for years.  

I really wish I had the huge harvest table I have at the lake for holidays here.  Our table seats 4, we have an open floor plan and no dining room.  I have miraculously, or uncomfortably,  fit 8 people around this table for 4.  We have 11 for dinner this year, and I've lost count on how many for dessert.  I'll set the table and the counter peninsula and we're good to go.  I'm having the traditional turkey, stuffing (I may add a little pork sausage to it this year, shhhhh...the kids hate change) gravy, mashed potato casserole, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, rolls and a new side dish I'm trying.  

Awhile ago I Pinned a recipe for roasted broccolini.  It's like a baby version of broccoli, a skinny version.  I was surprised to read in the description of the roasting procedure, that it's important to leave ample space around the veggies, or they will steam and not crisp up right.  Wow...I think I discovered why I've always failed with roasting vegetables.  I made Brussels sprouts tonight and spread them out really well.  Very good.  Using parchment paper is perfect to keep the vegetables from burning or sticking.  So here is the link to  Roasted Broccolini with Lemon and Parmesan Cheese.

A few last tried and true tips that I want to share about making Thanksgiving dinner a hit.  Getting all of your dinnerware, bowls, platters, and serving pieces together the day before is essential.  Check your wine glasses for spots, etc.  Make sure your napkins are presentable.  Prepare and refrigerate as many dishes as you can ahead of time.  Don't have any last minute house cleaning left except a bathroom touch up.  Put the turkey in, and then spend time getting yourself ready.  Shower, makeup, hair, clothes.  Wear an apron so you don't spill all over.  I was always the last one to join my guests as I saved myself for last.  

I want to thank all of you for your prayers for Milo, as well as comforting words, here and on Instagram as well.  This is my account.   He's doing really well.  He had the usual bloodwork today and I was also concerned that he had had a ton of diarrhea since Sunday night, the last bit today with a little blood in it.  My vet had me come over right away.  That in itself had me shaking and tearing up.  I'm not being very brave about any of this.  Well, the diarrhea could be a result of anything, he needed a few meals of rice and hamburger to bulk him up--boy, he loved that--, a remedy that's been around forever.  The blood was from his straining.  The really good news is that the swelling of his lymph nodes is almost down completely.  He's a trooper though, he takes good care of me.

I hope you had time to read all of this.  With no writing ahead of me for a week, I'll get back soon.  I want to hear all about your festivities, and see some of your family pictures.  I'll share the same.

Love and blessings,

Jane x 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Hello, my friends!  And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.  Your words of support, and promises of prayers for my furry love, Milo, had me in awe every morning when I would open up my blog to read comments. I could never ask for more at this time in my life.  In my last long and rambling post, as per usual, you guys weighed in and supported me on my eye issue, as well as my devastation in getting the diagnosis for Milo.  And you also were so thoughtful in giving Miss Madelyn birthday wishes.  Who could ask for more?  I'm so grateful. 

My spirits have been lifted as I see Milo making progress--well, not progress, but not getting ill since his first chemotherapy.  He's been acting like an old man a bit more, he frequently stares at walls, lies down to sleep in odd places, and sits and stares at me for minutes on end.  Nothing to be troubled about, just not his normal self.   Still, I'm so happy to have him.

He takes Prednisone, and I was told this could make him more thirsty and needing to urinate more.  He had a few accidents, which seemed totally uncontrollable.  His legs would go weak and he would pretty much lose it, thankfully on the wood floor and not an area rug.  And so much...a huge puddle.  He looks ashamed and I try to soothe him.  He also frequently gives me his 'look', almost hourly in the evening, which means he has to go.  As you know, we spotted a coyote a few yards from our house not long ago (yep, here in the city), so I go out in the backyard with him with the floodlights on.  That fear of a wild animal, and being out late at night is not so great.  But I do it, I'm not letting him out alone, nor suffer with a full bladder.  Please know, I do have a broom on the back porch for defense.    

Well, I've rambled on long enough here.  I think things are going well.  As well as can be.  As well as I can ask for.  

When I feel like my life is spiraling out of control, I tend to cry, sulk, and sleep a lot.  Last week I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and decided I needed to start living and working on my own life.  I have been unorganized, undisciplined, and fretting over my writing deadlines. My fridge never seems to be stocked up, the laundry piles up until I'm out of my favorite, stretched out yoga pants, and the house can use a good cleaning.  

If you've been around awhile, you might often hear me say, "I'm going back to the gym."  Well, it's been 2 years and I haven't been back.  And this isn't a fairy tale ending, I haven't signed back up yet...but I'm determined.  

If you've been around awhile, you might have heard me often say, "I'm going back to the gym."  Well, it's been 2 years and I haven't been back.  And this isn't a fairy tale ending, I haven't signed back up.  But I'm determined to do it when I can fully commit.  

One thing I was really failing at was eating well.  Eating too much bread, pasta, even rice and grains, and while the latter 2 are healthy, the carbs are a no no for me.  I was wallowing in a lot of self pity, and also being lazy about preparing and cooking the right foods.  

I really enjoy Pinterest, and my favorite Pins are recipes.  My boards are mostly those, yet I rarely follow through on making anything from these boards.  

I buckled down, chose a few healthy recipes, wrote down the items I didn't have, and did my grocery shopping.  Hooray, I followed through on everything!  Some meals didn't turn out quite as good as I thought, but you learn.  I hope I can encourage some of you to do this as well.  I loved the challenge and loved accomplishing my goal.  Unlike the gym, I'm not investing money only to feel guilty and worthless if I fail.  But I will continue to push myself on that end.

I happened to be at Target last week looking for a 2018 planner.  I couldn't live without one, and I'm already scribbling things into the notes section of the December one I have.  Target always has some cool journals, notebooks, tablets, calendars, and planners.  I came across this and thought it was so pretty.  I thought it was just a food journal.  I had a little one a few years ago that I found at Barnes & Noble.  I checked there, and even on Amazon, and I hadn't found one.  It really helped me keep track of my meals, how far apart they were, when it seemed I snacked the most in a was SO helpful.  

This is a really great journal.  It's not just a food diary, it's an uplifting guide to help you with your feelings about food, i.e., are you an emotional eater?  Do you snack out of boredom?  There are chapters that focus on how you feel good about yourself, lists of 'good for you foods', and at the end, a great diary for your daily meals to help you understand your eating patterns.

I will not hold back here, I make a regular attempt to post only pictures of myself that flatter.  I have a huge weight loss goal of about forty pounds.  That's a hefty amount my body doesn't need, and a real sign of neglect, lack of discipline, and unwillingness to commit to a healthy way of life.  I've only made half hearted attempts.  

I don't know if any of this menu planning or using a food journal will help.  I have to approach going to the gym as a goal to feel better, be healthy, and maybe one day, wear clothes that I can look good in.  Whoa- confession time!


As if I'm not challenging myself enough, or setting the bar too high, I decided to take on the endeavor of making tamales.  They look simple, but man, I was wrong.  The Husband is always raving about the ones he gets from a little Mexican place on his way home from work.  I really enjoy them, too, and I've wanted to take on some different types of regional cooking.  Okay, maybe I was jealous he was so loving something I didn't make myself.  ;-D

Oh, wow. I had no idea what I was getting into.  In the Latino culture, making tamales is very much a way to celebrate Christmas; a tradition that involves the women in the family working together; making dozens of tamales, chatting, enjoying the company, and later, sharing their hard work in gift giving.  

I obviously didn't get the part about doing this with others.  So far I have probably spent about fifteen hours shopping, cooking the meats (I'm making chicken and pork tamales), and making the sauces.  As of yet, I have not made the masa, which will hold everything together in the corn husks.  And then I have to steam them.  My recipes, and I combined a few to get what I felt was just right, will make about eighty tamales.  That's not unusual, as you want to gift your family and friends with about 2-3 per person.  I know, that's a lot, and I wish I had a hub of women to help me.  So far my girls, and The Husband, think I'm crazy.  I'm sorry-I like a challenge.  It keeps me busy and my mind off not so good things.

The Addams Family home, circa 2017

I promised you pics of the before and after of the landscaping, and improvements on our house.  Please don't cringe-I'm almost embarrassed to show you this.  These are permits in the window, not evacuation notices.  Also, the sidewalk had already been torn up.  The lawn was just terrible, and covered with the dust of the concrete work, as were the old, overgrown bushes, some had already been removed to make room for the porch.  Still, the ivy hadn't been trimmed all summer, and everything was just sad.  Remember, I was at the lake a good part of the summer and really turned my back on this house, I didn't even plant flowers or pots.  

I saw a porch as I was walking Madelyn in our neighborhood, I fell in love.  Two levels, and no ugly railings.  I found a mason who did a tremendous job on a porch for my friend, Snow.  He came, loved the design I chose and expanded the idea of using a replication of the limestone which you can see under the bay window to the right of the porch.  He did the driveway as well, which was in sad shape from the roots of the old maple we had cut down (see my last post).  And finally we had a new sidewalk done with pavers by another company, and new bushes and plants by a garden/landscape company.

The after.  Voila!  I think the biggest difference (and a decision I didn't want to face), was removing all of the ivy that wrapped around the house.  Even when trimmed, it looked unkempt, hid the pretty brick, and was causing damage by actually creeping inside the windows and damaging our gutters.  Lesson learned.

I had the shutters and trim painted a mossy green/gray, it's called Incognito by Behr from Home Depot.  I'm in love with it.  

Finally, the planting of the bushes and plants, as well as a good reseeding of the lawn, was done by a local company by the name of Garden Keepers.  It's owned by a terrific woman named Paula (Yay for women entrepreneurs!).  She came and took an educated look, talked to me about plant options; spacing, size, color, sunlight requirements, and answered just about any question I had.  

She was spot on.  My biggest request was that she didn't use very young bushes that would take a long time to grow and mature-I didn't want to look like a new construction landscape.  

We couldn't be happier.  In these pics we hadn't yet gotten new lights for the porch and garage.  The Husband picked copper lanterns with glass that exposes the old fashioned light bulbs.  We will also have the border in front of the bushes lined with 2 layers of flagstone, it just wasn't available in quantity so late in the season.

 My house is small, but it does extend back twice as far as it is wide.  Pretty much a typical small city lot.  Can you see the limestone on the sides of the porch?  That mason was able to match it to the stone under the bay window going back seventy years when the house was built.  What a professional.

So that's it, another post chock full of ramblings.  I have some writing to do for the papers, but I hope to get back soon.  And those tamales...what did I get into????

Jane x