Monday, October 29, 2018


Hello.  Trick or treat?  Are you ready for it?  So far our weather has been pretty creepy; cold, windy and rainy.  Just perfect.  Halloween is pretty busy in my neighborhood, younger couples have moved in with lots of kiddos.  Its kind of cool to pass on that baton.  Every year I spend more time than I need to making individual treat bags with a nice mix of candy, creepy fake spiders, snakes, some pencils, erasers, stickers--whatever I can get as cheap as possible at the dollar store. ;-D. But seriously, if you've ever had to wedge yourself in your front door, your dogs wanting to maul anything on the other side, while your outstretched arm holds a 15 lb. candy bowl that's breaking your wrist, you'll get my way of thinking.  It doesn't matter if its a three year-old or twelve year-old, they will hem and haw for 15 minutes before choosing one tiny piece of candy. Well, I've learned and so I make these little bags.  And so now I stand, wedged in the door saying, "Just take one, they're all the saaaaaaaame!"  

The picture above is the hydrangea mania going on in the floral department at my grocery store.  Apparently you can now get a dead flower for $7 a stem.

I thought this was worth including, also in the floral department.  Succulents are all the rage lately, and just to prove how hardy they are, these were shipped fresh from Arizona along with an unfortunate bird that couldn't quite tolerate the 125 degree temps. 

I don't decorate as much outdoors for Halloween anymore.  I think its really an all or nothing thing.  I drive past homes with life size skeletons, tombstones with funny inscriptions, and huge webs with black furry's all too much trouble for me, but I get that people like to do it.  I like to decorate just for fall now, but in years past, I'd get haystacks, mums, scarecrows, pumpkins--and the squirrels would demolish it in a day.  And I have a new mantra:  Remember--what you put up today, you'll have to take down tomorrow.  I'm just saving my energy for Christmas.  But please note those four little pumpkins on my window ledge.  They're not there anymore.

I had Miss Mad over last week for an afternoon of baking.  She is really loving it.  She is so, so absorbed in the whole process.  We made chocolate chip cookies, fudge, and candy.  The candy is simply melted almond bark on top of a waffle pretzel and then adorned with sprinkles and candy corn.  If you'd like to see more pictures of this, and a little bit of everything else, you can visit me on my Instagram feed.  

Last Saturday was her birthday party.  She actually turns 2 on November 10, but Emily wanted to keep the party outdoors.  It didn't work, it was cold and windy and we all congregated indoors.  My mother in law always used to say that she loved crowded parties because it made for more conversations.  I sort of agree.  

I'm not going to share any pictures because Emily put a lot of hard work and a personal stamp on everything.  The theme was a Puppy Pawty.  Madelyn is in love with all things Paw Patrol.  Snacks were served in decorative dog bowls, peanuts butter sandwiches for the kids were made in the shape of dog bones by using a cookie cutter, and there was a large basket filled with stuffed puppies for the kids to rescue/adopt.  It was all very cute.  And the adults had a great time, too.  She served Italian beef, Italian sausage (and no, we aren't the slightest Italian, its a natural on the Southside), and pulled chicken.  There was a nice array of side dishes and desserts as well.  

Being on Instagram can open you up to new or new-to-you brands and companies.  I check out products when a person I follow makes a recommendation and sometimes offers a code for a discount.  I just wanted to share a few of the products I've been enjoying and I'm so happy to have learned about.  I am not getting compensated at all.  Promoting brands and being asked to join seasonal or themed blog tours just doesn't happen for me.  

Anyway, I am a tried and true fan of Antique Candle Works.  This was a little business that was operating out of the home of one of the gals in a small Indiana town, and they created these delicious soy-based candles.  And then word got out.  What impresses me most is that I can burn one of these candles for about an hour and the scent fills not only the room I'm burning it in, but surrounding rooms.  I'm not saying its strong, but I was astounded when I would burn one in the Great room at the lakehouse and it would scent that huge room with the 19 foot ceiling, as well as the kitchen and powder room.  You would think I had 3 candles going!  They are competitively priced, but you can check out what you'd like by trying the smaller smaller sizes before moving on to the larger ones.  You will also get a sample or two in your package.  Enough.  Check out their website, sign up for emails, they have a lot of surprise sales.

Another great brand I learned of from Instagram feeds is a popular one that is getting a lot of buzz.  Its a company called Grove Collaborative and you can read about it here.  When you are thinking about doing your part in reducing waste and using natural products, you can find perfect choices from cleaning to storage to personal health and hygiene.  I can't tell you how satisfying it is to fill in the blanks on products I need to stock up on, and then find a box on my front porch filled with what I need for the month.  In knowing that the products are natural, I feel good about washing little Madelyn's dishes or a surface on which she plays, and she's not going to come in contact with anything harmful.  Some of these products can be found in your own grocery store.  I did a quick check on the Mrs. Meyer's dish soap and found that it was $1.00 more than what I pay on Grove.  So...check it out!

Lastly, and possibly the best decision I made was to join a vitamin prescription program with a start up company called Take Care Of.  And again, I saw a few sponsored posts on Instagram and I was curious.  Do you have a hard time remembering to take vitamins?  I can't tell you how many times I've bought a multivitamin or several specific vitamins based on what I had read would be helpful to me (and they are not inexpensive), and then forget about them.  

To get started on this new way of thinking about supplements, I took a short survey on the website involving my lifestyle, health, and fitness.  Its tabulated and a list of vitamins, minerals and specific supplements, some natural, is given.  I was impressed.  Since I started receiving my monthly supply, I am definitely happy with how I feel, how easy it is to remember to take them everyday, and I even got The Husband to try them.  The individual packets come in a box with a dispenser.  On each packet (with a happy hello!) is an uplifting quote or inspiration.  There is something personal here, and I feel its about the self care movement that maybe I've been late on.  Another nice thing about the company, you get an email before your monthly box goes out asking if you need to push the delivery date off for a week or so.  They know we aren't always on the ball taking meds or vitamins, so you don't have to worry about getting more boxes than you can keep up with.  I would say that you at least check it out.  Take the survey.  I have to admit, based on my issues, I take eight supplements a day, The Husband takes two.  Insert eye roll here.  

I took a little trip to Target the other day.  I actually felt more pulled there if you know what I mean. I needed something to transition from between flip flops to boots.  And of course, I walked out with two pairs of booties.  I have to say, here in the Midwest, you find yourself in boots almost every day, whether it for rain, snow and slush, or for warmth.  I really needed the black ones, but totally fell in love with the brown suede.  And don't laugh, again, an Instagrammer actually recommended them and said they were very comfortable.  And she was right.  I've worn them twice and I love them.  I'm always a little anxious about comfort and not falling on my face with a higher heel, but if its chunky, I'm fine.  And I love being taller. ;-D

I happened to hear about these fleece lined leggings.  I have some very worn out, knit leggings that are no longer acceptable to wear out of the house.  And for our cold winter weather, fleece sounds heavenly.  The best part?  They are $7.99.  I haven't worn them yet but I'll give you my opinion when I do.

And my final purchase was a few plates and bowls from the Hearth and Home collection by Joanna Gaines.  I had been tossing out dishes with cracks and chips left and right.  I really like that I mixed up my dishes at the lake, its fun and I can never choose a favorite.  So I've hung on to the old dishes I have here and added a few of these.  I really like the larger soup bowls.  I also picked up a few smaller and deeper bowls, but these are really nice for soup or stew.  And this was dinner Saturday night.  I have a terrible cold and for some reason we always order Chinese food when I'm sick.  This is Won Ton Soup and Hunan Chicken.  

Not much else is new.  I've had a rash of bad luck lately, and that's not counting the same old eczema rash.  I backed into a white van at Home Depot.  It was actually a Home Depot van, unoccupied.  It was in their pickup lane and there were a dozen of contractors around.  They sort of smirked when I got out to look. Nothing wrong with the van, my SUV had some white paint lines from the white truck.  When I got home I realized it wasn't paint, it was actual scratches in my black paint.  I have a relative who does body work so I need to get it in for a little sanding and paint.  I also need to get the hole in my windshield repaired from the rock that hit it while I was driving home from the lake recently.  

The last worst thing that happened to me was I spilled a half cup of coffee all over my Mac.  I was devastated.  I Googled what to do and the best thing was to blot it and then turn it over like a tent for a few hours.  I heeded the instructions and that evening tried to start it and nothing.  I don't know if I was being hasty, but the next day I went to Best Buy and bought another one.  I actually got talked into the Mac Pro, which is smaller than the Mac Air except for the screen, there is no frame so they are the same size.  I have to admit it wasn't the easiest getting used to the different size keyboard so I apologize for any typos.  

Finally, I was going to share a recipe, but I'm not sure if you guys can see the Pin button when you hover over the picture.  I don't on my computer, so if you can just give me a yay or nay, I'd appreciate it.  I've been cooking up a storm from a few new cookbooks which I will share next time.  

This post has been spread out over three days.  I just can't get organized.  I want to ask that we all continue to pray for peace and human kindness in these turbulent days.  Remember to vote, no matter which way you lean.  And finally, a big happy heavenly birthday wish to my sister, Leslie.  Let's continue to push, donate, and pray for cancer research, which is where it all starts.  

Jane x

Saturday, September 22, 2018


Hi everyone!  I know all of you have just been devastated that I haven't posted in over a month.  Perhaps I should have said that I needed to take a break, which I've never done in eleven years, but it was so much better to torment myself everyday with thoughts that I was acting like a sloth and had no discipline. 

 I've heard stirrings that a lot of ladies have given up writing blog posts and instead use Instagram.  I've been doing Instagram for a little over two years and I think this might be true in a lot of people, but not for me.  It's important to do what we like and what we have time for.  I still love to write and weave little stories about my mundane life, so I'll never give up the blog.  I know I've said it before, I do feel its important to post on a regular basis.  Some do it to be dependable to their readers, and because they feature ads and depend on their blogging for income, much like a business.  So--when I'm lying in bed at night, thinking of the mountain of life happenings I want to bring you up on, it turns into one looming project that nags at me.  Realistically, I'm not making any money on my blog as I do with writing news columns.  But that's just a little twinge of excuse-making sometimes,  I want to write as I've been doing all my life.  And now I do it for a living, with teeth clenching deadlines, its overwhelming but definitely not uncommon and I roll with it.  Enough said.

  One other thing: for awhile just recently, we were commenting on blogs, and after, we filled in our name, email address, and website.  Then you could check a box saying, "Please save my information for further comments."  All of a sudden that stopped.  Now whenever I post a comment, I have to fill in those spaces and its a time sucker.  What happened?

When you go for a stretch of non-blogging, seasons change whether you realize it or not.  I use my photos as a guide to write, and I gasped when I realized I hadn't even finished telling you about the end of summer (or August), and now we are getting ready for fall.  We had a lot of great times at the lake, of course.  Emily and Mike come up quite a bit with Madelyn; she loves the beach and water, the large amount of open space inside the cottage where she can run and do whatever she can't do at home.  The last time we were there we had some rainy days and so Mad and I made cupcakes together.  I know every Grandma likes to brag, ahem...but I was really surprised how focused she was on mixing the batter, and later, carefully frosting and adding sprinkles.  She spends a lot of time coloring, drawing, painting and putting stickers on paper.  Its a good way to get that eye/hand coordination.  I thought I'd be sweeping sprinkles up for days but she didn't even get any off the plate.  But I'm not a bragger.  ;-D

Since I'm also a lazy photographer, I don't have much to offer from my summer gardens.  The Husband has completely taken over the big perennial garden we started at the lake a few years ago.  After my back surgery in April, I was in no shape to weed or even plant anything new.  He has totally claimed it as his.  On afternoons after he's finished fussing over it, he pulls up a lawn chair, pops open a beer, and just sits there looking at it.  Sheet.  He can have it.  I'm thinking of a raised bed for veggies and flowers next spring.  I'll ask The Beach Boys to dig it out when they are doing their water and beach cleanup.  Hee hee.  I will not be out-maneuvered by someone who doesn't even know what compost is.  Notice my photo bomber, Milo above.  My sedum is getting huge, the plants are like bushes. 

I had to mention that we met up with my blogger friend Cindy, who no longer blogs, and her hubby Dan right here in Chicago.  Since they are in Western Wisconsin, we've always met some place halfway, and believe me, there is not much between Chicago and Black River Falls, WI.  But it was Cindy's birthday and she wanted to spend a few days in Chi Town.  So we had a fun time hanging out in Millennial Park, one of the places they hadn't been.  And they covered a lot of ground in three days.  Temps were in the mid nineties and we were dripping wet.  We finally ducked into one of our favorite restaurants, Paisano's on State St., for some great Italian food, and then wandered over to Macy's, which held a lot of childhood memory for Cindy. When it was Marshall Field's of course.  Dan had never been to Chicago, and The Husband wasted no time in playing tour guide.  Big eye roll here.  I admit, he knows everything about Chicago: its history, layout, architecture, and every shortcut you can imagine to avoid a traffic jam.  Anyway, it was a fun time and I hope we can get together before Christmas.  Can you imagine taking a gamble to meet a blogger who was a total stranger, and become the best of friends while meeting once a year for ten years?  Life is full of the strange but true.  And the rewards of taking a leap of faith.  Love ya, sista!

Just wondering what this is growing along my fence.  Weedy but pretty.

I have a twenty-five year old jade plant a the lakehouse.  It took a little tumble which actually was a good thing; it had grown bigger in a way that made it off balance and I wasn't sure if I wanted to mess with it.  So some very large pieces broke off and I took this as a sign that I should be a little more courageous, if only with a plant.  I put the stems in water until the little whisker-like roots appeared, then potted it and left it out in the sun for most of this summer.  I am so HaPpY!  Look at the size of this.  Sure beats spending $9.99 for a little pot with two stems (sorry Home Depot).

The fall decorating got of to a slow start.  It was a little early for me but every time I went downstairs to do laundry, I'd pull a few things out of my autumn bin.  I would think, this is enough.  I have a much lighter touch these days keeping in mind I have to put it all away in a few weeks.  But then I started to to think how little kids notice everything and anything new, so I was motivated to add more.

The mantel was fun because most everything was there.  Its such a huge surround, if I try to scale back it looks too bare.  Too much and its obnoxious.  Anyway, I think it says fall.

I won these velvet pumpkins in a giveaway a few years ago that Debra from Common Ground hosted.  Another blogger made them and I feel bad that I don't remember her name.  They are gorgeous and those are real stems. Ignore that little candy dish there.  I mix a lot of kiddie candy in since The Husband would devour all of it if it was all chocolate.  And he obviously has.

More attempts at tabletop decor.

I have three of these crates that I was lucky enough to score in a Christmas grab bag.  This is the smallest and its great for corralling a few items.  This is not a new design tip, but it really makes me smile when I have an unusual container.

This little critter always comes out in the fall.  His arms wrap around little acorns which are actually salt and pepper shakers.  A little bit of whimsy.  I never fill or use them.  Purely there to amuse me.

Little Miss Madelyn came over this morning while her mama went out for a design consultation and relaxing manicure.  With just a few more weeks until she turns two, she has become delighted with exploring everything in her world, and imitating what she sees going on around her.  When she used to sit and stack my spice jars, now she actually pretends she's cooking...shaking that stuff in and stirring.  

Last night I made some sugar cookie dough and this morning when I had her here, we sprinkled the flour over the the counter (her favorite part--I mean actual permission to make a huge mess!).  We rolled the dough in balls, patted it down, rolled it out (she had her own small kiddie rolling pin), and then cut out shapes.  I only have to show her steps once and then she's on her own.  It astounds me.  After they were baked and cooled, we frosted them, added sprinkles, and then had a tea party.  I actually found a real Fiestaware children's tea set at Marshall's the other day for---wait...$7.99!!  We had so much fun, and I was exhausted afterward.  Love you mama's.  I did it with four under the age of ten, but I still wonder how.  

"I'm sorry.  I simply can't bake without my vintage apron and jewelry."

July, 2019 may sound a long way off, but not for my little girl Abigail Jane.  That's the wedding date and so it was officially time to start hunting for the gown!  The first prerequisite was no strapless dresses, and it had to tie in a bit with the long ivory silk dresses of her fourteen bridesmaids.  Sheesh.  And she also wanted to go to a variety of shops, big and small.

We made our way from River West downtown, to the burbs down south.  She fell in love with the first dress she tried on.  It was originally $10,000, (I'm catching my breath even now), but it had a few tears in the netting so it was marked down.  I was in the hall frantically checking my savings account on my phone, when she said she just couldn't decide in the twenty-four hours they were going to hold it.  Yes!  And cheers between sisters on a job well done thus far.

And we finally found THE DRESS!  She's my daughter so I'm partial, but she is stunning in this gown, it is her looking her loveliest.  The wedding will be outdoors at dusk on gorgeous Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, and she is going to outshine the moon and stars.  Sniff sniff.

Milo's lymph nodes were slightly swollen a few weeks ago so our vet said he is not completely in remission anymore.  The goal has been to keep an eye on him with bi-weekly exams.  He had actually been acting quite normal and then we spent an entire weekend with his back legs giving out over and over.  Once he'd hit the wood floors, he clawed desperately to get up and couldn't, so we were lifting him up.  I really thought that this is when the quality of life ends.  My doctor had mentioned acupuncture for the pain in what we thought were his hips.  So I agreed.  And this is what it looks like.  You can Google what it involves in canines because it was all Greek to me.  I do know he didn't feel a thing, and it turns out his problem is actually in his lower back, just above his tail.  I brought him home and he didn't fall again for a whole week.  I knowwwwwwww!  But he has just started to again, not a lot.  He has the second of three treatments on Monday.  If the problem is not alleviated, it simply isn't an option anymore.  

It might sound like we are entirely overboard on not giving in to cancer and old age with this great guy.  The chemo, although not the cheapest thing we've ever done, gave him another year, and maybe we will be blessed with more.  I was happily surprised that the acupuncture was $89.00, and it included a full exam so I expect it to be less on Monday.  I'll take it.  

He often acts confused; staring at walls, pacing from room to room, and as you can see above, taking a nap on the bathroom floor.  Senility in dogs is very much like some elderly people.  They get confused and disoriented.  When he paces from room to room, it may just be familiar patterns, or he could be looking for our children he used to find in a bedroom, the office or the family room, years ago.  The bathroom?  I think he just liked the sun and breeze coming through the window as well as the soft rug.  Since he's deaf he is pretty much undisturbed all the time, which is a blessing.  He needs his rest.

I'm wrapping it up here.  Just wanted to share some books I have corralled up.  Girl, Wash Your Face, which I'm barely half through, is extremely interesting and grabs you from the beginning.  A non-fiction book of humorous but totally relevant  situations and tips on how to stop believing the lies you have been telling yourself, from self worth to believing criticism.

Alas, the remains books have not been opened yet.   I mean, I haven't written a post in six weeks, do you think I have time to read?  Ha!  Every time I tell myself to write, I decide that catching up on my reading is more important, so I settle on my bed with eighteen pillows and the two dogs, the book, and my phone alarm set for one hour.  And then I promptly fall asleep.

I'll give you more reviews on these books in another post.  In the meantime just look them up on Amazon for a nice description and the good and bad reviews and ratings.

I'll leave you with this.

I've missed all of you and I'm already feeling energized and ready to roll on more posts.  Maybe I just went dormant for awhile.  Who knows.

HaPpY FaLl YoU'aLl!

Jane x

Thursday, August 2, 2018


Hello all!  Happy August!  I'm a bit spotty in my blogging, but I'm here now and full of ideas for upcoming posts, so as the dust settles, you'll see more of me.  Not much of a point in going on about July 4th! lol!  It was as always, exhausting too.  But it's just a once a year bash we have, not counting Memorial Day and Labor Day, the latter of which is coming up fast.  

I have to say we probably had about twenty-five people on the Saturday after the holiday as that's when the fireworks, parades and all sorts of celebrations go on at the lake.  Most of the time The Husband takes a boatful of people out at night to see the fireworks from the lake, but this year everyone just walked down to the boat launch down the road where you have a perfect view of the sky.  I stayed back at the house with Papa, and we sat by the driveway and didn't miss a thing.  

The little kiddos had a fantastic time on the beach and playing in the water.  I don't think any of us were indoors unless it was bedtime or nap time for the babes.  The meals were delicious, everyone bringing something to the table.  I used to be a lot more organized about the menu, rigid sometimes.  I think the best way is to have the basic plan and be ready to improvise.  The grocery store is five minutes away.  In fact, I had two appetizers I wanted to make, bought the ingredients at a huge store in another town, and then when the weekend arrived, realized how long I would be in the kitchen making them.  I think the more simple the prep work is, the better it would be for a large group or when it's your party.  When you have a smaller group, go for that enticing recipe you want to try on your victims.  

There is usually someone who comes through with flying colors to bump up the menu a notch, and help out in a major way.  My son, Jeff, took the horse by the reins and grilled up a huge amount of spicy chicken wings, then slapped them down on the patio table with a roll of paper towels.  THE best mid afternoon nosh.  And then there was my brother in law, Jim.  They drove in from Kansas City with the kids the night before and rented a small cottage nearby for accommodations.  He had the foresight and generosity to stop and pick up a few things on the way to our house.  In the kitchen he set out putting together a wonderful antipasto platter for everyone to nibble on before dinner.  He made a beautiful salad to go with dinner, and then after dinner he served everyone some sort of cream cake which he individually and offered to everyone.  His wife, Gwen, one of the best people I've had in my life for the past twenty-five years, came straight up to me when she arrived and said, "What can I do?  I'm not moving until you tell me what I can do to help."  She's just like that.  And you know, these are the sort of good people who would be hurt if you brushed them off.  Good, good family  :))

If this picture looks dark, it's because it was.  Backtracking... The Husband and I arrived at the lake separately, the weekend prior to the holiday.  Our daughters and their men arrived on Tuesday.  And of course, our little pixie, Madelyn.  Everyone was such a huge help in just getting some general things done, and then the nitty gritty of cleaning the garage, patio, house, guest house, was so heartwarming to see everyone helping out.  Yes, even in July there was plenty to do.  We also sat in front of the bonfire at night playing music, looking at the stars, and drinking a lot of cold beer.  Hence, the actual 4th of July on Wednesday came and went, everyone going to bed very early, leaving me, the last man standing, in the guest house while the fireworks lit up the sky outside the windows and the boom, boom, booms filled the air.  Everyone missed it but me!   

We have an ice cream truck that goes around the lake playing kiddie songs.  Oh my gosh, it was so fun to see my kids frantically digging in their pockets for ice cream for their kids, while shouting for someone to stop the truck.  That feeling of panic that the truck wouldn't stop for us was something I can still vividly remember from my childhood!  Remember those days?  In this picture, I don't think Madelyn has a clue as to the enormity of eating this entire ice cream sandwich!

Everyone was out the door on Sunday, along with The Husband.  I stayed on hoping I could just sleep for fifteen hours straight.  I ended up staying three weeks!  It wasn't all play, I had my writing to do, deadlines and such, and Layla has taken to sitting on the table while I work.  I swear she was a cat in a previous life.

 The Husband came up on weekends and that was fun, I always had a To Do list waiting for him.  He really threw himself into working on our perennial flower bed, pulling weeds, filling in sparse places, and pulling out plants that weren't doing well.  I think I showed you a photo of a plant I couldn't recognize and it wasn't flowering or doing anything purdy.  A sweet girl left a comment on that post calling it Pachysandra.  She was spot on.  A person at the nursery confirmed it and told me it was a ground cover.  I didn't want that in this bed, and the leaves looked a little diseased so out it went.  So, my guy made several trips to the lake nursery and kept adding more and more plants.  Honestly, I haven't asked what they are, although many I see are lilies.  I'm methodical about my gardening, I have a diagram and plant flowers that bloom from early spring to late fall so I always have color.  I also keep in mind height and space...oh well, he has so much fun.  I suggested that when he retires we can have a big veggie garden.  I think he's liking that idea.

I didn't neglect the inside of the house.  You might remember from my last post that I didn't like the black framed barn print I had next to the mirror.  The black played out well, but it was a little too modern for me.  One night I was perusing my emails and saw a sale on large wall clocks at Pier 1.  That good old light bulb went off in my head.  The closest store to me, 45 minutes away had two in stock.  And this is it.  It's a replica of a pocket watch, and it's super heavy.  It has a London address on it, I should have taken a close up, I will.   The Husband has a way of acting grumpy when I make decisions without him.  I was quite coy when I asked him if his father had a pocket watch (said father would be 110 years old if he were alive), as he was a train conductor.  TH couldn't remember but when I pulled this clock out of the box I could tell he liked it.  The next morning I woke up to the sound of his drill as he was hanging it.  It could go a little lower but I'm not complaining.  

All good things have to end, and to be honest, The long hot days were getting to be too much and the dogs and I were spending more time in than out.  It seemed like it took me forever to get all the bedding washed, the bath towels, beach towels, throw rugs...blah, blah blah.  But we finally got on the road last week. 

I was pretty impressed that The Husband hadn't let all my potted plants die.  Maybe his somewhat new interest in gardening is making him more attentive to this sort of thing.  And the house wasn't terrible.  We have a cleaning girl who comes twice a month, and since she had just been there, everything was clean, sparkling, and fresh.  He was spared...this time.

Grandpa & Madelyn, July 2018

All four of our grand kids really gravitate naturally to The Husband.  He is always so chill, he speaks slowly and smiles a lot.  I, on the other hand am always sort of excitable, to put it nicely, talking and gesturing wildly most of the time.  Even when I'm sitting, I look like I'm moving.  And I'm daffy with the kids...I love make-believe and funny voices, exploring the yard, filling the bird feeders, and picking up toads.  I guess they get a good mix.  Did you imagine me this way?  Don't answer.  

A quick update before I end.  You might remember we had one of our huge windows shattered by a stone thrown by our lawn guy's mower?  I searched high and low for a contractor.  We also needed our entire patio redone, the pavers were all buckling and it was a serious hazard.  Long story short, I found someone who would be available in August, yay, and you know the domino effect.  I had been wanting the balcony off our master bedroom to be screened in.  It has an arbor overhead so it's useless when it rains, and always buggy and dirty.  And I also thought that the front porch below should be extended on each side to really look like a farmhouse large porch.  I'll do some before pictures, but you can look on my sidebar for a pretty good idea of the street side of our side.  

Our guy and his crew will be working soon, so I'm just not going to be at the lake much.  It's just too involved and the dogs don't need that activity and distraction.  Anyway--I'm SO excited!

I'm signing out for now.  Off I go again tomorrow for a family weekend.  The next weekend we have good friends coming.  Then I'll be a city girl, and hopefully be good to go for Labor Day if we aren't a mess from the construction.  

Continue to enjoy your summer, it gets tedious sometimes with the heat, humidity and too much or lack of rain.  I'm getting too old to wish away even one day.  Make each one special. :)

Jane x

Monday, June 25, 2018


I'm having a hard time being disciplined in writing.  I'm good with visiting blogs, it used to be the other way around.  But now that I'm feeling better, moving around better, I am determined to get on track with my writing and taking pictures.

I didn't spend a lot of time gardening this spring, just a few pots here and there, most of my work was  focused in front of the city house.  As you might remember, we had a new porch put on, and some new landscaping and such.  I just added some pots of flowers to the porch and window boxes.  I'll get some snaps for my next post.  

I've had some good quality time at the lake here and there.  The two hour drive has never been fun for me,  but now I can load up the car, grab the hounds and go.  And I don't have to come home until I want to.  :))

I took some shots of the kitchen.  It really hasn't changed much in a year.  I've learned from having company that I need more mugs, and as much as I like to use my everyday dishes, even melamine, people are awkward about that and want to know where the paper plates are.  Personally I'd rather spend a few minutes washing up dishes than having bag after bag of trash.  But its no big deal.  


All of my everyday dishes are from Anthropology.  After the eighteen month wait to get back into my house after the flood, I splurged.  I chose 4 different sets so I could mix and match them.  The Ball jars have the metal lids;  I collected a lot from barn and yard sales in the country.  A buck or two will get you a large one.  Clearly they don't know the craze for them, along with old alarm clocks,  vintage kitchen scales, and and time worn linens. I always love a touch of whimsy in my rooms, here I have this joyous duck on the top shelf.  The unexpected always gets the most attention.  

The opposite side of the kitchen is done with rich, dark, cabinetry...just a bit distressed.  I really wanted that juxtaposition with the farmhouse style and reclaimed wood on the other side. The cabinets have lights inside on the top, I love how that looks at night when the kitchen is clean and 'closed'... cue me yelling years ago to my four grubs, "Get out of there.  Kitchen closed!"  In this cabinet I keep white dishes by Gibson, which used to be my everyday dishes a few years back.  There is an identical counter/cabinet are on the other side of the fridge.  That cabinet has a set of old china I picked up at an antique shop well over fifteen years ago.  And yeah, I'm saving them for when the Queen of England comes for a visit.  

Totally changing the subject, I was wondering if any of you Trader Joe fans have seen these spices.  Emily picked some up for $1.99 each, and I nearly fell over.  This is a great one.  I've actually used it on meats, in salads, and of course, on bagels.  I've been tossing out a lot of my spices little by little.  They have very little strength and aroma after 6 months.  I now know to get the smaller containers of turmeric, curry, and such.  How about pumpkin pie spice and poultry seasonings?  What a waste.  I've been in some cute culinary/cooking shops, a little on the trendy/expensive size, but I think it might be a good idea to buy some small packets of these rarely used spices.  Trader Joe may be the place to find replacements.  

On to some cooking.  I've mentioned many times that I like to clean out my fridge by making soups, stews, quiche, and stir fry to use up veggies before they go bad.  That said, I haven't been going to the grocery store much as A)  I can't lift and carry those bags into the house in multiple trips.  Its just something that makes my back pay for it later., at least for now.  B)  With going to the lake all the time without The Husband, he doesn't know the first thing about cooking so he just needs some frozen dinners, canned soup, English muffins, and Raisin Bran.  Even then, he usually orders food or picks it up from a fast food place.  

I stopped using packaged, frozen, and canned  food with preservatives a few years ago.   It wasn't a huge challenge because I've always loved fresh vegetables.  The challenge was always using them up before they spoiled.  So long story short, I'm not ashamed to admit that I've been relying on these frozen goodies as I heal.  Surprisingly, Bird's Eye makes a mixed bag of vegetables with a (rather salty) packet of teriyaki sauce.  It's a 3 pound bag with two packets of sauce.  I made it according to the directions the first time.  The second time I sautéed some onions and chicken strips in sesame oil before adding in the bag of veggies.  Leave it to me to tamper with something meant for ease. Still, my love of cooking is lagging behind.

 I've also learned to love frozen peas and carrots.  I throw them in everything.  I made egg salad last week and heated up a small bag of them to add to the mix.  It was a really nice difference and added some crunch.  I served it over a bed of iceberg lettuce.  For the record, my salad includes chopped, boiled eggs, mayonnaise, a small amount of chopped shallot, celery, garlic and onion powder to taste.  NO salt, you'd be surprised how much mayo has.  

This is not my photo, but I felt it gave a really good idea of how delicious these fish tacos are.  I am loving making them, and I usually serve them buffet style, which takes away a lot of extra work.   I had something similar in San Diego a few years ago, and you can now find them on a lot of restaurant menus in the Chicago area.  I hope you give the recipe a shot.  I took the best ingredients and methods from a few recipes on Pinterest.  

Blackened Fish Tacos with Avocado-Cilantro Sauce

 This is a somewhat spicy dish, but the heat is mellowed out by the slaw and creamy avocado dressing.

1.5 lbs. tilapia or cod fillets

1 1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t garlic powder
1 t dried oregano
1 t onion powder
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t salt
1/2 t brown sugar
1/4 t cayenne pepper
2 T veggie oil
12 corn tortillas

***For the slaw:

1/2 red cabbage, sliced thin

1/4 green cabbage, sliced thin
1/2 medium sweet onion
1/2 c chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime

***For the avocado-cilantro sauce:

1/2 c sour cream

1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
1/4 c cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
Salt to taste

In a small bowl mix together all of the spices and gently pat into both sides of the fish

Combine all of the avocado-cilantro sauce in a food processor or blender until well combined.

Prepare the cabbage slaw.

Use the veggie oil to lightly coat your grill or grill pan.  Cook the fillets over high but not direct heat, 4 minute per side.  This can also be done in a heavy skillet on your stove.  Remove the fish from the heat and if desired, warm the tortillas for 30 minutes on each side.

Gently break up the fish into large chunks.  Stack the tortillas in twos.  Distribute the fish evenly between the 6 sets of  tortillas and top with the slaw and sauce.  Serves 4-6

This recipe is not as busy as it sounds.  I make my sauce and slaw the day before and keep it refrigerated.  The spice mix can be made ahead, in fact, you might want to double or triple the ingredients as it makes a tasty seasoning for all types of fish and meats.


I've been doing sooooooo much reading while I recuperate.  Obviously I'm not trotting off to Barnes & Noble; so its a lot of Amazon searches, blogger recommendations, book reviews in the newspapers, and magazines, etc.  I walked into the book aisle at CVS last week and nearly died when I saw this book of short stories by Maeve Binchy.  Now, if you are a fan you know she passed away a while ago. I've caught up on a lot of her books I hadn't read over the years, and then sort of felt lost knowing there would be no more.  Well, here we have a book of her short stories complied by her husband, Gordon Snell.  Its copyrighted 2015, so maybe you've seen it.  I'm just three stories in, and oh, how I love short stories and meeting new characters and plots.  I have to admit though, I'm sorry when a story ends when I've become attached to the people.  I'm loving it.

I've been a little discouraged in buying books.  I no longer get books at the library.  Where I live, there is a waiting list a mile long for a new release.  I always look at the reviews of books on Amazon, but still,  after a purchase, there are times when I want to throw a book against a wall.  A recent paperback novel with a glowing review from the New York Times had a huge number of grammatical errors and mistakes.  I wondered who edited it, how it got published.  For example, the two main characters were at a cocktail party in one chapter.  The husband was drinking quite a bit before the wife suggested they go home.  Later in that chapter, there is a major happening and the husband sits down next to the wife on the sofa and, "...she looked at Justin and suspected he had been drinking."  Really????  Grrrrr...


I have a final appointment with my surgeon in 2 weeks.  Yay.  I am totally off prescription pain medication other than a muscle relaxant as needed.  I'm doing some upper body weight lifting; hand held weights, ten pounds each.  I'm also carrying and lifting as much as thirty pounds.  I can bend over and touch my toes.  Amazing considering I have 2, three inch clips screwed into my lower back.  I will say it was excruciating during the first two weeks, and the fog of the Norco made everything surreal and upsetting.  I don't want to look back.

Milo is having a lot of problems, mostly from his age as the cancer is still in remission.  He has lost a lot of strength in his hips and back legs.  Over a week ago he was falling at minimum, ten times day.  Sadly, I had to lift him back up as he simply slid on the wood floors and fruitlessly struggled to get up.  I constantly worry about him when I'm out.

My vet is always one step ahead of me.  In addition to a low dose of pain meds, he started him on an anti-inflammatory, and after about a week, he stopped falling.  Near the end of the day I can see him standing, and the back legs quivering, but its not changing his quality of life, and that's what I have to be cognizant of.  Fingers crossed, toes crossed and sending prayers to that big guy above.


I have a busy week ahead here in the city: my eight week hair appointment, my annual dental check up and teeth cleaning, Layla's vaccinations at the vet, and the Garden Keepers doing some backyard weeding, trimming, and clean up... a pure luxury for as long as I'm healing.  Wondering how long I can stretch this out!!! ;-D  Then I'm off to the lake to prepare for our 4th of July bash.  Emily, Mike, and Madelyn will be up days before and they are a huge help.  And The Husband is actually taking time off work.  He works way too hard.  And his birthday is July 2, so we'll have a nice celebration up there.  He's there right now, at the lake.  He went yesterday morning to do some work and he sat back tonight with a few beers and thought better than to come home.  He'll be back bright and early tomorrow.

Okay, I'm off.  I actually have a lot more random stuff to share but I'll hold off.  You are probably sighing in relief!  Ha!


Sunday, June 3, 2018


Happy June!  After the heat we've been having, and storms, it almost feels like mid summer.  But things have leveled off here in the Midwest, at least the high temps, humidity, and rain.  The plants are lush and full, begging for a good trim, and it's finally tolerable weather to get some outdoor projects done.  

I feel much  like Milo (above).  The last 6 months spent in bed not doing much.  But I've healed so much in the past month.  I still have good and bad days.  My doctor was truly surprised when he saw me 2 weeks post surgery awhile back, he said most patients would come in with their walkers.  I can only take credit for having had a nice balance of resting and then moving slowly and carefully.  But I pushed myself in a lot of ways because I had to.  Who was going to let the dogs out or feed them?  I had to make my meals, take showers...everyday things, and that's a part of physical therapy in its own way.  

Isn't this pretty?  I found out about it 2 weeks before I came to the lake last weekend.  Our lawn guy hit a stone with his mower and while it only made a small hole in the window initially , it spider-webbed out.  Thankfully, it's a double pane window and only cracked on the outside.  I've had a few window companies out to look at it, and it appears we have a lot of issues with all 8 large windows, including the wood trim and caulking  around them.  This is a huge job and I have my work cut out for me in trying to find contractors this early in the season, almost all are booked up.  I'm so grateful that all the windows were deemed safe so that I can be here.  I have to say its disappointing after last year being absolutely worry free...finally!

The girls and their guys, and sweet little Madelyn, were here for Memorial Day weekend.  They were all a big help in getting the place spiffed up after months away, and it was like summer blossomed overnight.  We had beautiful weather, it was in the nineties but when you're on the boat or in the water that's not a terrible thing.  We have a covered patio with a big ceiling fan so we were very comfortable and truly spent the three days outdoors.  We lived on cold cuts, salads, grilled burgers and hot dogs, S'mores, breakfast muffins, exotic and fruity cocktails, lots of beer and bottles of water. There were bonfires each night, fireworks around the lake, sand all over the house, and wet bath and beach towels going 24/7 in the laundry room.

This year Madelyn, now 18 months old, has a much better idea of Grandma and Grandpa's place; the beach and water, her little pool, the boat, her bedroom, and our morning to night rituals.  Early in the morning I would wake up to hear her little feet thumping across the floor downstairs as she ran around enjoying all the open space.  When she spotted me coming downstairs, her face would light up and she'd run to me with her arms open wide.  Oh, she is such a huge joy in my life.  

I let her help me fill the bird feeders, it reminds me of Emily at this age; she would sit right smack in the middle of our vegetable garden and hand me seeds.  Madelyn just loved to sink her hands in the big container of wild bird seed and somewhat aim for the feeders.  I hung them up and as the evening went on, the birds began to arrive.  I would hold her, point, and explain how we had given them 'their dinner'.  Oh, I could see the wheels turning!  There's nothing like seeing life through the eyes of a child, or sharing your life with a child so their curiosity can be piqued.  I'm really looking forward to summers to come.

Lots of good things blooming now, a bit late due to the wacko weather.  These iris' grow off to the side of our house and woodpile.  They mean a lot to me as The Husband planted them as a surprise  over twenty years ago.  One spring I was out wandering around, saw them popping up and ran to get him.  Yes, he had planted the bulbs the previous fall just for me!  They come and go so quickly, usually before we have really gotten into a regular pattern of coming and going for the summer.  Its such a pleasant spot under a tree to stand and gaze at with my morning mug of coffee and the snooping hounds.  

This is a plant that is driving me crazy.  It's in my perennial bed and it didn't bloom last year.  I don't even see buds right now which would have had me think it might be a biennial.  This is actually one plant, and I have three.  On my muddy, torn, garden map, I think it's written 'dianthus', but I could be wrong.  If you have any idea, let me know.  I need my space!  The leaves are thick and quite tough.  The stems are thin and woody.  Interesting?  Please help me figure out what it is.  

I was so pleased to have this mirror hung back in January, I had been hanging on to it for over 2 years waiting to find someone to do it.  Weighing a hefty ninety pounds, no one was ready to jump in.  My lawn guy came to my rescue. 

This is a close up.  I love how it reflects areas of the room. 

 I was trying to pick up some of the black accents in the Great room, and I hung this art print of an old barn next to it, and I specifically chose a black frame.  This is not looking right to me.  It's a long wall and while the pieces look well together, they seem to be just slapped up there, not giving any warmth at all.  

I know it's going to take awhile for me to see this the way I want.  The mirror definitely stays (who's going to move it?!), but I actually think I may do some sort of arrangement where the print is, maybe something white and rustic.  

The first thing I set about doing was working on this oak table.  We bought the set over twenty years ago and The Husband stained and varnished it.  It's been a workhorse and is still in excellent condition, but it has a very 1990's look.   I added the end slipper chairs two years ago and always intended to paint the Windsor chairs.  I picked up some chalk paint and got to work.  I also looked at some chairs online, I thought a bit more of a mix would give it a spin.  More on that later.

I came back to the city late yesterday afternoon, it was a good ten days away.  After a houseful over Memorial Day weekend, it was really a slow and peaceful time; hot days flowed into some rain, and then cool temps came yesterday.  The house was sparkling clean so I packed up my duffel bag, grabbed the dogs and here we are.  Of course it smelled like dirty socks when I walked in.  The Husband doesn't think to open windows.  Still, he keeps things pretty neat.  I often surprise him when I come home, like yesterday.  I chipped away at cleaning up and sorting mail, in between lying down; the good old back isn't liking two straight hours in the car.  

I have flowers to plant, a patio to clean up, a vet appointment for both dogs, my two month appointment post surgery, and I need to line up quotes for work at the lakehouse.  But I'm taking it slow--honestly!

Happy June!

jane x