Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Happy holidays, all!  We are on the edge of the eve of the biggest celebration in the world.  It's always a whirlwind of activity, isn't it?  I was all set to sit down here, squeeze in a post, when I know I have a zillion other things to do, and just complaaaaaaaain.  But I'm not.  There is nothing different in my crazy anxiety now than there was last year, and the year before, and so on.  But that's it.  I've switched to a lower gear.  I'm cruising.  Christmas is less than a week away, and I'm going to get excited about it instead of looking at my watch every minute.  It's so refreshing.  

The nice thing about having a blog is that its like a photo album which you can peruse when you want ideas, or just wonder how you decorated for a particular season or event in a previous year.  I think I'm on 10 years blogging, so I have a lot to look back at.  I smile when I see the same decorations being used over and over in different ways.  I'm so flexible that way. ;-)

This year I really needed to keep things minimal, as I'm hosting a big family celebration and I have no idea if it's going to work well with the number of people and the size of my house.  The less decorations I have, the less cluttered it will look.  I actually had my mantel decorated.  Christmas cards displayed around a door, my snowman collection set up on a sofa table, and holiday pillows and throws on every chair and couch.  This morning I took it all down and put most of it away.  I woke up with an eye that took in all the busyness, added about thirty people from young to old, and knew I was making a huge mistake.  I'm actually breathing easier.  Really, I walk from room to room and feel lighter.  

I think I did really well with my Christmas shopping.  I hit sales, and used promo codes and free shipping on just about everything I ordered online.  Pricing is so competitive during the Christmas holidays, maybe one year I'll tally up my savings.  In fact, if it were remotely possible to have any extra money when these sales start, I think it would be incredible to make purchases for future gifts or personal needs, especially if you've have been playing Mrs. Claus for 6 weeks.  

I'm pretty sure I found this pillow at Marshall's.  It's so subtle and cute-almost vintage like.  I found out my 2 friends down in Asheville, Penny and Penny, also bought the same pillow.  It tugs at my heart that I haven't been there for a year and a half.  I know if I sat down, blocked off The  Husband's work calendar, and planned it out, we could go in a month or two.  Right now I can't leave Milo.  Chemo is ongoing, but even after that's over, I'm not sure I want to go away for a week, 10 days, or more.  I have a great girl who house/dog sits, but I'm not going to upset his life like that.  He's fragile.  I won't be taking these risks after what we've been through these last few weeks.  Maybe we can grab a few days in the summer to just hang out down there.  Maybe.  I come second here.  

One of my biggest pleasures recently has been spending time with my niece, Tricia.  She came over and helped me decorate a good part of the house, had hot chocolate and wrapped gifts (the girl is good).  We went out for pizza, and to the mall.  We had a blast in Bath & Body Works smelling every candle there!  She's incredibly fun, polite, curious and sweet.  I hope she had as much fun as me.  :-D

This is a small section of monster mantel.  For the life of me, I can't bear to move that old window.  Are you like that with anything in your home?  I work it into ever mantelscape.  Maybe someday I'll laugh.  I've changed the whole thing around since I posted this photo on Instagram.  It was making me claustrophobic.  It doesn't help that I have gifts; wrapped and not wrapped, on tables and stacked on chairs.  I still have ornaments to put on the tree, and all of my baking supplies scattered on the counters, as I don't have extra space in my cabinets.  Oh, no--  I'm complaining.  Anyway, I simplified the mantel by removing the three little trees I had, and now I have the simple greenery, mini lights, and some silver and mercury glass candle holders.  Lots of sparkle.  Yes!

I did just a little on my wee front porch.  It looks a little messy, sometimes the decaying leaves make marks on the new concrete.  My urn still has soil from the pansies that survived right up until I switched it up with fresh evergreen.  I added some thin, white stems that I save from year to year, and a floral pick with a bow.  A red lantern with a white candle and gold bow sit next to it, and I have the same mat from Target from last year.  As you can see, I strive for absolute perfection when I style my porch.  Ahem. 

About a week ago I placed a little basket on the porch ledge with some bottled water and small bags of chips for our delivery people to help themselves to.  Emily saw something similar on Facebook, and I loved the idea.  I'd love to give our mail person a gift at Christmas, but we have a different one from day to day.  On days when I actually opened the door to deliveries, the compliments made me blush.   A man from Fed Ex said, "We really appreciate what you do for us."  It's the little things.  I'm still keeping an eye out for squirrels!

So many fun gatherings ahead.  I'm fighting a bit of a cold...the miserable sort where you don't want to get out of bed.  Then you do, have some coffee and a shower, feel better, and an hour later slump over, craving that warm bed again.  I actually ran out of Kleenex, and had to keep a roll of toilet paper next to me wherever I went.  Sadly, I had wads everywhere, and sometimes dragged them along with me.  Can it be more embarrassing?  In the ambition department for my party, I have cut myself some slack.  Four dozen cookies instead of eight.  Skip the bows on the presents, and shove the dog toys in the hall closet.  

We visited my sister in law, Meg, and her husband, Declan, Saturday night when brother in law, Jack was in from Vancouver.  His pretty girlfriend, Isabella, also came.  We met her when we were there about 2 years ago.  It was so fun, we had a nice crowd of close family.  Look at the spread of appetizers.  An array of cheeses, sausage, crackers, nuts, and nibbles.  Also an assortment of sweets.  It put me in the mood for more festivities.  

A sister in law on my husband's side of the family is having a little open house at the Irish pub she owns tomorrow night.  That will be fun and I'll be home early enough to get my minimum 12 hours of sleep.  I'm getting in gear, people.

I had to share Ms. Madelyn's 'Cutting Down the Christmas Tree' outfit.  It's very fitting; a little holiday sparkle in the skirt, a fur vest (Daniel Boone inspired?), a custom made scarf from Aunt Mary Beth, and her signature velvet bow.  She has a wardrobe that anyone would envy.  Classic.  On spot.  Spit up proof.  ;)

Tomorrow I'll be finishing up my Christmas cards, and getting them in the mail.  Thursday I'll start baking.  I like to make little boxes for the kid's in laws, and a few friends. I've gotten wise in making bar cookies, fudge, and chocolate dipped pretzels, big bang for the buck.  Then I add some store bought chocolate candies, and this year, some of Trader Joe's gingerbread men.  A nice treat.  I might make some spiced pecans if I have time.  They are so  popular.  The Husband drives over an hour into Indiana to get a package at Cabela's Sporting Goods.  What a trooper.  I get crazy just by tossing them in the oven every fifteen minutes.  

Our Christmas celebrations start on Saturday, the 23rd.  This year we are hosting a family gathering for a part of the family consisting of about thirty.  I said something about it earlier in my post.  My house isn't huge, but not small.  It's just a lot of boxy rooms.  Chip Gaines would take his sledge hammer and eliminate a lot of walls in a minute.  I know I've had big parties before, we'll have to see.

I lost my mind for about 4 milliseconds, and thought I could pull off doing the food myself.  Making a huge amount of food for twelve at Thanksgiving pretty much told me I didn't have the equipment or cold storage for a larger feast.  So we will cater.  I've mentioned this before in posts, and maybe it's a term we use around here that is misleading.  Catering does not mean people dressed in white shirts and aprons, carrying around trays of food and serving guests.  Well, yes, you might have that in a different scenario.  We use the term "cater' when we order large amounts of food from a restaurant, and have it delivered hot and ready to serve...yourself.  

We have an overabundance of Italian and Asian restaurants in my neighborhood.  Both are fantastic, and we use the Italian for a large group.  It's easy and economical to prepare, it's always filling, so you don't need a ton of it, and it's always loved.  We have some of the very best Italian food here on the Southside of Chicago.  

I spent  little time perusing restaurants and catering menus; prices and dishes.  I wanted something a little different.  I ended up with a place I've been to a few times, but the catering menu was nothing I've tried before, so it will be a make it or break it.  Tell me what you think:

Spinach Salad, with creamy bacon dressing
Quartered Chicken, brined, dry rubbed, and smoked
Sweet Potato Fries
Mac and Cheese
Roasted Vegetables
Cookies and Brownies

It sounds a little southern, I think, yet the restaurant is pretty much American--whatever that means.  I'll keep you posted.

I'm off now, into my land of simplicity and calmness.  The tree is twinkling in multi covered lights; don't you do just the best thinking alone in front of your lit tree?  The Husband has been snoring away for 4 hours with little Layla.  Milo, my Prednisone induced insomniac, is wandering around with a huge bone, positive he's going to hide it from a pack of wolves in one of the closets, or a clothes hamper.   Not sure who this dog is anymore, but he makes me laugh.  :))

Sending love and hugs to all of you for a wonderful and blessed Christmas!

Jane xxx

Saturday, December 2, 2017


Hey, December!  You're here. This is it!  You made it!  Does this sound familiar?  If you watch Jimmy Fallon, it's the beginning of his monologue every night.  I guess its compassion for all of those tired people waiting outside for hours, then getting seats, and again, waiting for hours.  I just couldn't do it, as much as I love him. 

These are the gorgeous flowers I received from my niece, who came to Thanksgiving dinner with her kids.  My niece is my age, I think that's sort of cool.  And it leads me to a little tale that probably means nothing at all to any of you.  

My husband was the youngest of 4 boys.  The two eldest were born, and had left home, when he and his brother were born.  Thus, an age gap of twenty years.  Hmmmm...not sure what happened here.  So, these older brothers have children as old as The Husband and his brother.   

While I'm telling family stories, it's very sad that The Husband's mother passed away from cancer when he was just 4 years old.  He and his brother had a live-in 'housekeeper', for lack of better description at the time.  Even more interesting, she was a native American Indian.  I can't say that The Husband shares a whole lot of memories of this time in his life, it is what it is.  Shortly before The Husband left for college, Viva passed away, and soon after, his father. 

I got away from myself here.     

Another bouquet for our table.  I had no intention of doing any sort of centerpiece.  Our dining table is just too small, it's ridiculous.  Deb's flowers were perfect.  I had a buffet, as usual, but to my credit I used dinner plates, cloth napkins and silver-plate.  A little touch of pampering.  

Things ran like a well oiled machine until later in the evening, at the time when we had a nice amount of extended family for dessert and good cheer.  A mouse was spotted in the kitchen and you would have thought it was a grizzly bear.  Of course, I was mortified; mouse = dirty house.  I do not have a dirty house!  The wicked varmint enter through the attached garage every fall, and whether you like it or not, I have poison planted everywhere.  I must have forgotten the garage.  When the squeals started, The Husband suddenly became very interested in the person he was conversing with.  My wonderful brother in law stood up, and announced he would take care of it.  Born and raised on a farm in Ireland, he wasn't feeling much fear.  I wanted to smack my forehead, and say our pet mouse, Mickey, must have gotten out of his cage.  But then another when came running out.  Sigh.

I don't think I've been as mortified as this since a bat flew into the lakehouse when we had guests.  The Husband ran around with a fishing net, while my women friends dived for cover under tables.  A story for another day.  So how was your Thanksgiving?


I made meals with the leftover turkey, but I'm happy to say there wasn't much left over  My niece has 3 hulking, Irish boys, and when I say hooray on the dent made in my casseroles of food, I mean that.  They liked it!  I did make a great dish with the leftovers that you may want to do after Christmas if you make turkey, or you can substitute chicken.  That's at the end of my post.  And the broccolini dish I made was delicious and got a thumbs up.  The recipe was included in my last post, you can find it here.  

The Saturday night after the holiday, I was so "carbed' out, I wanted something fresh and clean.  I love sushi, and I was craving it so bad.  We have 2 great places blocks from us.  One is small, but the dining room is splendid.  We love the owners, they come and sit with us to chat for a bit.  The other is absolutely huge, but the service is excellent and the menu features Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and they have a few hibachi tables.  So...we tried a new place that recently opened, right smack in the same area as our favorite two.  It was excellent.  You can see the sushi dinner I ordered.  The Husband had his Teriyaki chicken.  He loves anything sweet.  And we shared lo Mien noodles (that put me back on the carb train).  Portions were huge, of course, and we had a few meals over the next two days.  

 It was a group effort in bringing up the Christmas decor from downstairs last week.  Group, as in me and The Husband.  I carried the bins to the landing, he carried everything back to the family room.  And there it sits, with a small stack of wrapped presents, and a much larger stack of UPS delivered packages and boxes.  I'm so good at shopping, especially online.  Is that not fun or what?  I love to get catalogs in the mail, they seem to zoom in on the best ideas, then I open that laptop and away we go.   I've always been an avid shopper, I have a black belt.  And Christmas is the best time ever.  

I found this wreath on Wayfair.  I've been looking far and wide for something lifelike, pretty, and reasonably priced.  I think this was about $35, and is 24 inches in diameter.  You can shape it any way you want, and since I took this shot, I added a plaid initial 'B' ornament to the bottom.  

The highlight all of the festivities of the holiday had to be Abigail's longtime boyfriend, Tom, proposing to her the day before Thanksgiving.  It was a real blessing.  Our family couldn't ask for more in a husband and life long partner for our daughter. 

They met shortly after high school graduation 8 years ago, at a party on one of Chicago's beaches.  Although Tom grew up nearby, and went to school on the same campus as Abby, they had never truly run into each other.  But they clicked.  Like a sad movie, he headed off to college in Michigan 2 weeks later, and she downstate in Illinois.  It was a challenging 4 years, but they were committed.  

 And now, for the past 2 years they have lived in an apartment in the city with Squall, their rescued pup/child.  They are both teaching and really loving their careers.  And to my relief, they are looking for a home in our neighborhood.  She claims they want a big backyard for Squall, and a brother or sister for him.  I think she has finally decided she has seen enough of the big city and wants to come back to our close and familiar neighborhood   

A really great celebration was hosted by Tom's father the night before Thanksgiving.  So many friends they grew up with, family members on both sides, and cheers all around.  Her sparking ring is stunning.  I think she is still smiling!   

Oh---remember those gorgeous velvet boots in my last post? I thought they were going to be uncomfortable because they were really meant for someone taller.  Well, I wore them to this little engagement party and they were very comfortable.   The nice little heel was perfect for me to stand alright for hours.  I'd love to wear them everyday but they aren't waterproof.  The link to where I bought them is on that last post.  

Finally, I never want to see anything that flew in a previous life for at least another six months.  I'm craving carbs to no end in spite of my attempt to cleanse myself with the sushi.  Bread, pasta, noodle soup...when you go off the deep end you tend to say, let's get it out of the system.  I'm laughing here, but truly, I've been beating myself up.  I try to find comfort in knowing a lot of people are out there  loosening their belt buckles, but I've been sitting on my butt, writing for my papers (a good thing of course), but having my share of movies, news and of course, salty snacks to keep me fortified for all the drama.  Ahem.  

I made turkey tetrazzini with the bit of meat left over.  I really like to spice up the recipe or it comes out tasting like Elmer's glue.  I also use the shredded Parmesan cheese as opposed to the fine, it makes a little crust with the bread crumbs.  I hope you enjoy this.

Turkey Tetrazzini

2 c. cooked, shredded turkey, light and dark meat
8 oz. package egg noodles
4 T butter**
3 T flour
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1 t dried thyme
1 1/2 t. garlic powder
1 1/2 t onion powder
1/2 c frozen peas and carrots
1/2 c half & half
1/4 c  fine breadcrumbs
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
S & P to taste*

Boil the noodles according to package directions.
Drain and pour into a 1 3/4 quart casserole.  Top with shredded turkey, spreading evenly.  

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in flour and keep whisking for approximately 1-2 minutes until the mixture is light brown.  Slowly add in the broth, whisking as you go. Once blended,  turn up heat until the mixture reaches a boil.  Add the peas and carrots and keep stirring until thickened.  Add your dry spices and half and half.  Taste and adjust seasonings, this recipe needs enough salt to keep your taste buds happy, so feel free to adjust*.  

Pour mixture over the turkey and noodles in the casserole dish.  Top with the bread crumbs**.  I like to add a few pats of butter over the crumbs for more flavor.  Finally, the  Parmesan cheese.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until bubbly.  You can turn on your broiler, watching closely, to brown the top if you'd like.  Any leftovers can be frozen.  Enjoy!


I never have a television on during the day-it's a distraction when I work, and even while housecleaning, I tend stop to watch The View or Ellen.  Excellent shows, and I'm very addictive to stuff like this.  Come evening, I like a bit of fantasy and drama.  Later, I turn on CNN.  I know, I'm a paradox.  In my little television world, may I share some thoughts?

~~~I absolutely adore holiday Hallmark movies.  I can't exactly pin why, I'm sure it has become a Christmas tradition for a lot of people.  The channel seems to have run with that thought, they have themes throughout the year now--romance in February, wedding movies in June.  As far as the Christmas movies, I have an eye for detail, so I do notice when there is a snowball fight scene and the actress is later shown minutes after in her high heels.  I wonder what they are thinking.  The empty coffee cups are slightly absurd also.  At least fill them with water. They lift up these plastic cups as if they are featherweight, sip and never swallow, and when they are set down, they sound hollow.   I've also noticed a new effect where the snowflakes drift down in front of the camera, as opposed to a major job in the background.  Sadly, the actors never have so much as a flake in their coiffed hair.  

~~~Two of the movies I've seen so far that I really like are The Christmas Train and Mistletoe Inn.  I love the actors in both and it's not a coincidence, each movie involves writers grappling with their novels, and their relationships.  As a frustrated writer with lofty dreams, I simply love the premises and shared emotions in these characters.  I have to say they aren't really sappy either.

~~~How many House Hunter shows are there in film storage?  After 9:00 p.m., you are not going to find anything other than these terrible shows on HGTV.   There was a time when I somewhat enjoyed watching, especially the international house hunting.  And then a episode came on where a woman complained about an apartment in Spain because it didn't have a microwave oven.  Was she nuts, or the producers who decided to air this episode?  Is there a script involved?

Now I'm off to do some cleaning and organizing of Christmas decor.  I may even toss a few jolly throws on the sofa, and tuck in some pillows.  Maybe get some gift wrapping going.  It sounds insane, but I have an inner clock telling me to be absolutely finished with everything by the 10th of the month.  I want to know that the stress is over, and I can just flow along at my own speed doing whatever I want, like making cookies, or meeting up with friends for a cocktail.  Wish me luck on that!

Happy Holidays,