Tuesday, March 27, 2018


Spring is here, yay!  The last time I posted it was February, cold and miserable.  Then again its the same way today.  Keeps us on our toes, I guess. My grocery store has a really nice, large area with fresh flowers and plants.  There's something for every one's wallet.  I personally like the 3 for $12 deals.  I can make vases for every room in the house.  And that fragrance...I was really tempted to get a pot of the purple/blue mums, aren't they gorgeous?  Sun or rain, my home feels light and happy.  And that colorful background?  That's boxes of cereal.  

I have little sprouts of daffodils poking up outside, as well as day lilies.  I think they got a little confused when we had some temps in the 50's a few weeks ago.  Otherwise, it's quite bare in the backyard.  I have a lawn service, and they were here recently to do a spring clean-up.  They raked up all of the old grass and dead leaves, and aerated the lawn.  So now its just about waiting for May to roll around, and then we can really start to get our hands dirty.  I'm going to be really careful this year to not overdo the pots of flowers.  It was hard to keep everything watered and healthy while running back and forth from here to the lakehouse.  I think if I keep a nice clean color scheme that flows around the patio and garden beds, I'll be okay.  I'm so excited.

These are the yellow and white tulips I chose from that menagerie of beautiful flowers at the store.  Some fresh flowers, and a handful of my spring decor is all I'm going to have to spruce up the house.   I still feeling like a minimalist.  I've been avoiding my usual haunts; TJ Maxx, Marshall's, HomeGoods.  I keep telling myself that I don't need anything.  My mom always said, if you want to save money, stay out of the stores.  The truth is, these particular stores are so affordable, and it's hard to say no to something we find and fall in love with.  I have to laugh now though, at some of the things I've come home with over the years.  Endless dishes, you know...have to keep up with those tablescapes.  And don't forget napkins in every color and pattern.  Signs...a sign for every room with every sentiment possible.  Kitchen gadgets.  Crates and baskets of all kind.  

Okay, I'm not shaming anyone.  There have been times I've needed something, and I knew just where to go.  A certain size casserole dish.  Bath rugs and a few extra quality towels.  Toss pillows.  Wine glasses.  Olive oil.  Candles.  Yes!  Candles for sure.  Can you share anything you've found at one of these stores that makes it worth walking in and out with a smile?

Some things are just too hard to pass up.  I'm thinking I may move on to lambs.  Just kidding.

All of us here in Chicago have a lot to shout about with Loyola making the Final Four.  Hooray for March Madness!  I'm not much of a college basketball person, but I do like winners.  Incidentally, My niece is a junior at Villanova, and a cheerleader.  There she is above, the cute little redhead.  You rock it, Lizzie!

It's always fun to have family over for a weeknight dinner without a lot of planning.  I had picked up some shrimp and scallops on sale, and knew it all was too much for The Husband and I.  I invited Emily, Mike and Madelyn, and then started searching for something delicious but easy on Pinterest.

The main dish was pasta and sea scallops in a white sauce.  It was simple, easy, and really tasty.  The salad I chose however, was to absolutely die for.  It was a recipe for an entree, but I modified it for a starter salad.  

I changed the recipe tremendously based on what I thought would yield much more flavor, and to eliminate some unnecessary steps.  This is my version.

Pan Seared Scallops with Bacon and Spinach

2 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled.
1 T reserved bacon drippings
2 large shallots, diced small
2 cloves garlic, diced small
1/2 lb. fresh scallops, coarsely chopped
1 12 oz. package of fresh baby spinach
Juice of 1 lemon half
1 T olive oil combined with 1/4 t balsamic vinegar

In a large skillet heat the reserved bacon drippings.  Sauté the shallots for about 2 minutes over low heat. Do not cook until they are wilted, you want a little crunch.  Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.  Add the scallops and stir until cooked through, about 2 minutes.  Remove mixture from pan and keep covered and warm.  Add 1/2 of the spinach to the pan and add the lemon juice.  Toss until barely wilted.  Add the remaining spinach and the balsamic mixture.  Toss gently until heated through but not wilted---again you want a slight crunch.  Remove the spinach to 4 salad plates.  Top with the warm bacon bits, shallots, and scallops.  Garnish with a lemon wedge if desired.  
Serves 4

I think this makes for a nice spring salad, light for lunch, or doable for dinner.  I had a loaf of good artisan bread, and we used globs of butter instead of the traditional Italian olive oil and parmesan mixture for dipping.  A contrast to the two recipes.  

I was going through some of my dishes for Easter dinner and came across these cute plates.  I found them at Pier 1 years ago ((I want to mention that on Instagram, I incorrectly wrote that I bought them at Williams Sonoma).  Why I only bought four...Anyway, I used them with my everyday dishes, my trusty tulips, tea lights candles, and napkin rings, also from Pier 1.  I've had the same Magnolia Heart And Home runner on my table for awhile, so I just added black place mats.  I'm lazy like that.  It was fun to do though.  Spur of the moment and no fussing.  It's about time I used all that stuff I've bought over the years.  ;-D

Playing with my dishes

When the little grandkidlets are old enough to eat off something other than plastic, maybe they will come to love these dishes in the spring.  

Sooooooo Big

Emily and Mike need a night out once in awhile, and I am more than happy to have Madelyn.  So here we were on Saturday night.  She had dinner with The Husband and I, then ice cream for dessert.  I got her ready for bed, and then she picked out some toys to play with in the den.  She has been gravitating to these oversized crayons.  She had a coloring book, but when I gave her this blank notebook, she really went to town.  We watched a little Sesame Street, and she soon fell asleep in my arms.  The happy couple had a great night out, and I was loving every minute with her.  

I'm looking forward to Easter.  Making a ham is a no brainer.  Emily is making her famous Mac and Cheese, and I'm delegating the canned corn to Abby.  It will be great to see the extended family that we last saw at Christmas.

I'm still on a reading frenzy.  I followed up The Woman in The Window with The Flight Attendant.  Another Murder/Suspense novel.  They are hard to put down.  And I ordered The Light We Lost after a few Instagram ladies recommended it.  It's supposed to be a tear jerker.  Its about time after all this nightmarish, bloody stuff.  

And I have bad news.  We can talk more about it later.  I'm have back surgery near the end of April.  There is no way around it after not having a result from the epidural.  All of my discs in my lower back have collapsed and I have bone rubbing on bone, as well as nerve issues.  The vertebrae levels will be fused together and held with screws. 

 To say I'm afraid is to put it mildly.  I'm mostly worried about recovering.  If I want to have any semblance of normalcy, I have to put in the work.  My doctor said if I keep moving, I may be able to drive in ten days.  If I do the physical therapy, I may be able to walk a mile after six weeks. Anyway, this is just the way its going to be.  I'm really praying I'll be out of this pain quickly.  I hope I'm not whining, but I'm in serious pain 24 hours a day.  The hardest things to do are to sit in an upright chair, like in my kitchen, or at the doctor or vet or something.  I absolutely go, "Ouch, ouch, ouch," when I have to roll over in bed.  The Husband has learned to sleep through this, thankfully.  It's like my upper body can roll, but the lower half refuses to without a sad fight.  Ha!  I'm a tosser and turner, so that doesn't help.  I do not like to take the pain pills.  They give me a headache.  But a lot of days, about 4:00 when I've just had it, I take one, lie down on my bed with a heating pad and the dogs, and for about four hours I'm drifting on a cloud.  My body, not my head!

Okay.  Please let's talk about the books you are reading, what you like to buy at those addictive shops like Marshall's, what your Easter plans are.  Oh---I just got Netflix.  Can you recommend a good series?

Take care and Easter Blessings!

Jane x

Sunday, March 4, 2018


Not The Only Tired One

Hi everyone!  It's me.  Thanks so much for your encouragement (and patience) as I get my life in order.  Lol. I also appreciate all of your supportive comments on Instagram.  I don't want to dwell on the health problems I've been having, yet I want to always be honest about what's going on over here.

The virus, which would ebb and flow, seems to have finally kissed me goodbye.  I get up with the urge to start the day,  I'm rarely tired, and I'm starting to do some of the organizing and spring cleaning that I would have started weeks ago if I had felt better.  Why do we beat ourselves up over standards we often set for ourselves, sometimes just to make others happy? 

 I think I've learned a lot about myself since this past ordeal with the virus and my back issues.  I simply stopped worrying about everything but my own health.  Many of you had said, as well as my own family and friends, just take care of yourself.  I listened.  I slept.  I changed into a fresh pair of pajamas's everyday.  Dishes piled in the sink.  We ran out of essentials.  It was interesting to see that The Husband didn't really notice the chaotic mess the house was.  He did notice there was usually not dinner waiting, and that we weren't stocked up on Doritos and Diet Coke.  After some grumbling, he'd go to the store.  I don't hold that against him, these are his creature comforts and it was an upset for him.  The main thing is that I learned to ask for help.  I've gotten so used to carrying the load that I forgot I deserved some attention.  I'm not patting myself on the back here, so much is about having a good revelation and hoping that you, too, know that you deserve to be taken care of.

Long story short, I made it through the virus.  I know it will hit again.  All I can do is get healthy, build up my immune system, and avoid others who are sick.  My back problems are another story; I have four herniated discs on each side of my spine, and a multitude of other degenerative diseases.  We are on our last choice of treatment before I have to have a spinal fusion, as in surgery to screw my vertebrae back together.  This past Thursday I had an epidural injection into the most inflamed disc.  I was so surprised that it was treated as a surgical procedure; gown, cap, wheeled into a surgical room, my spine on a screen showing what a complete mess was, and the four inch needle working it's way in.  Sixty seconds felt like forever.

Hallelujah, I'm feeling better with each day.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I have a whole new appreciation for the wonders our backs perform every second, every minute of every day.  

Geesh, that was looooooong, but I know many of you have had these problems and some, this procedure.  Feel free to share in your comments.

Latest Excellent Read

When I wasn't sleeping over the past four weeks, I was reading.  I was perusing my New Yorker magazine one day, and came across a book review by Joyce Carol Oates, one of my favorite authors.  A positive review by her is as good as it gets.  If you like drama and suspense, this is a book for you.  It's a new release and definitely a page turner.  At 400+ pages, you can imagine the twists and turns.  I'm a quarter of the way through it, and scramble for time to sit and read.  Check out Amazon for the description, reviews, and best price.

Good Friends:  Lake Geneva, WI., 2018

I mentioned we would be meeting up with my longtime blogger friend Cindy, and her husband Dan, in Lake Geneva, WI.  It's always good to see them, friends for ten years, but only seeing each other once a year.  When we both had started blogs ten thousand years ago, I suggested to her that we get together, I mean Wisconsin is just above Illinois, as the crow flies.  She thought it was a pretty cool idea, since Black River Falls is only five hours away.  Duh.  Still, we met in Galena, Illinois, which I think was pretty much an even three hour drive, total strangers, and we clicked.  

First meet: Galena, IL., 2010  (Look at my baaaaaaangs!)

As the years have gone on, we have met up in Galena and Lake Geneva twice.  Cedarburg, WI., (near Milwaukee) a few times.  Madison, Wisconsin.  And they drove six hours (!!!) to our lakehouse in Michigan, one summer. 

This recent meet up last weekend was fun of course, and Cindy was a super supportive friend to me.  It was before my epidural and because I knew we would be having cocktails, I didn't take any medication.  It was raining and sleeting and downright cold.  But she'd patiently wait while I leaned against a light post, or stop inside a shop to gain my momentum. 

 I can't tell you enough how I've learned that life can take twists and turns that lead to wonderful relationships and great times if you are just open to taking that chance.  We are already talking about them coming to the lakehouse this summer, hopefully for an extra few days to explore some of the towns along the lake, and hanging out on our beach or boat rides.  There is so much to do and I always wish; after emails, texts and phone calls, that we lived closer.  

Obvi:  Hogs & Kisses, The Bar Where Everyone Knows You Are From Chicago When You Order A Moscow Mule

Our Mad Mad

She gets beyond cuter everyday.  When I'm out and about, I check if Emily is home as an excuse to go play with this little darling.  They often stop by as well.  I have her to myself for spurts of time when Emily goes for a manicure, her hair appointments, and evenings out.  They come (including hubby Mike), for visits or dinner, and it's just so amazing to me how she knows where the toys are, where we let the dogs out, where the televisions are at, and where I keep the snacks and baby cups, plates, etc.  She is infatuated with our bedroom.  We have a huge four poster with steps to get up.  I tell her, "Let's go dance on the bed!" and she makes a beeline for the room.  And we jump, dance, and pretend we are taking a nap.  

I really do miss those days with my kids when they were little; playing fantasy and silly, exploring all things new.  Time goes on, and the days of potty training, the first day of school, washing baseball uniforms, watching baseball and basketball from bleachers, calling them in for dinner, giving them buzz haircuts on the front porch, and of course, complaining about their messy rooms...it's all hazy sometimes, isn't it?  We had a huge role, not shared or shadowed by anyone else, and now so many of us are older grandmothers, we might be relieved and ready to pass the baton.  It can be exhausting, even to put all the toys away and reassemble your house after the grandkidlets are gone.  But we do it.  We are the pros.  We set the standards and we should revel in that time and this time of love and dedication.  

No Better Baby Model On A City Street

When Madelyn was born, Emily had a huge tug of the heart and wanted to be at home.  She was offered a job with The Husband, where she could work from home and only go into the office once a week.  It was a win/win for all involved.  She is an exceptional legal assistant; smart, organized, efficient, and she can stand up to her father!  But she has never lost her creative drive.  With a bachelors degree in interior design, she still does home consultations, but she has really zoned in on baby fashion.  I think she could have her own baby boutique.  She's a thrifty shopper, and belongs to a buy and sell FB group.  And that Madelyn, she's a natural model.  

Photo:  Source unknown

French Onion Dip Sandwiches

I mentioned that I bought myself a new and updated slow cooker.  I've finally gave it a test run yesterday after I couldn't stand to see it taking up space on my counter.  I'm not sure if you've had a good French dip; tender slices of thin cut or shredded beef, cooked in a salty, onion au jus and served on  crusty french roll   A side of the hot au jus is served on the side for dipping and dripping.  

I take no credit for the above photo.  Give credit to Fox Valley Foodie.  The recipe however, was definitely dabbled with, and I am so happy to say that this is a winner.  This is how I did it:

4 lbs. beef chuck, round, or rump cut roast 
1 10 oz. can of French Onion Soup (Campbell's)
1 10 oz. can of Beef Consume Soup (Campbell's
12 oz. Guinness Beer
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1-2 T dried oregano
1 T dried garlic powder
2 cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Add roast to preheated crock pot.  Pour the cans of soup over as well as the beer.  (I only had Bud Lite and that was just fine!).  Add the remaining ingredients, cover and set the timer for 4 hours if you want to get it going in short order, or 8 hours at leisure.  At four hours, shred the meat right in the pot, or remove to a cutting board and slice as thin as possible.  Taste the au jus for flavor and adjust.  The oregano is such a good addition, make sure you have that flavor going.  Add the meat back to the pot and continue to cook.  Meanwhile, toast French bread rolls in your oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes until just crunchy.  Serve the beef on the rolls with a generous amount of the sauce.  Have bowls of au jus around for dipping.  I picked up some french fries from a local restaurant carry out because I just couldn't match that addition.

You will have plenty of gravy left.  I refrigerated mine and will buy some sliced beef at the deli later in the week to heat up in this tasty as jus.  You can also freeze it.  I think you can add it to stews and soups as well, it has a bold, salty flavor.  


I have the pleasure of stopping into Target a bit more often, as that's where Em buys her diapers, and I can't miss an opportunity.  I, myself, have been slowly adding more toys to my arsenal, as these kiddos are growing so fast.  And I can't pass up the shoes or books, or cosmetics...I finally did see something I liked from Joanna Gaines' line, Magnolia Market.  I picked up this runner the other day.  Very simple, well made, with little black X's.  It seems I'm gravitating to black a little more since I added some accents here and there in the Great room at the lake.  I think it actually calls attention to your whites and more neutral colors.  I like this tabletop which will take me right up to Easter.  In fact, the next time I trudge downstairs with the last of my Christmas pillows and throws (yes, I found some items in Abby's room),  I may bring up some bunnies.  

I've done a lot more cooking in recent days and I'd love to share the recipes, maybe later, as this post is pushing long.  Last night I made crab cakes, super simple and quick; and tonight, chicken and dumplings.  When I'm stressed, I cook.  The more stressed, the more elaborate the recipe.  Stress over the unresolved little unravellings in my life can send me straight to the kitchen.  I do my best thinking there.  My problems, like everyone else, can make me reach a point where I'm are wasting my time and energy.  I'd rather put it into cooking, reading, writing, spending time with my husband, kids, friends, and huge 'ol family.    

---I've been snuggling up in my little den, watching, as always, Chicago Fire and PD.  My cousin (Hey Joanne!), had a good part of the cast and the firetrucks down her street, just blocks away from me, and posed with several of the actors.  They are soooo cool, not to mention handsome. There were some people in Chi town who didn't like the intrusion of streets blocked off with filming, but the number of people given paid jobs as extras totally shut down those voices.  And by the way, Happy 181st Birthday to Chicago!!!

---I'm still watching Blindspot, the Housewives dramas, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Property Brothers, and I recently hopped back over to the Food Network for Beat Bobby Flay and The Kitchen.  The last two are entertaining for foodies and cooks. 

---I'm looking forward to the return of Timeless and Imposters.  I also started to get into I.D., when I'm not home alone, and I'm taking The Voice with a grain of salt.  I don't watch many movies.  I have never been a huge fan of television at all, I prefer to read, simple as that.  I like a little mindless time, as I write and spend time online at the same time.  

---I finished off a few light books by Jenny Colgan.  She has a series about a young woman in England, heading off to an island after a bad break-up and job loss.  Only connected to land by a causeway which disappears when the tide comes in, she hesitantly starts life over in a tiny fishing town.  She finds peace and new friends, as well as a little bad luck when she opens a bake shop.  Again, light, but I love a novel set in a place I'd love to visit.  Jojo Moyes also has a new book out with a novelette and some short stories,  now sitting on my nightstand.

---My share of magazines:  Vanity Fair, People, Allure, Marie Claire, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Country Living, and Better Homes & Gardens.  I get all these by subscription for a song.  I just wish I could keep up with them.  Skim or let pile up until the articles are no longer relevant.  

---Downsizing my closet but not resisting shoes at Sole Society, Boheme, Jane, and 6PM (all websites).  Looking forward to getting out of the warm boots and the rain boots!

---New Beggin' Strip Turkey treats for the hounds, which are healthier and super tasty.  Did I mention Milo is in remission?  I did on IG, and I mix that up sometimes.  We are so beyond happy.  He's acting peppy, has a ferocious appetite, and loves his crazy concoction  of cooked hamburger, peas and carrots.  I give him (and Layla, of course) this to disguise his meds.  He deserves it though.  These are the happiest times of our lives together.  Give your dog or kitty a big long hug today.  Every minute counts in their short lives.  

---New to me, Kind bars.  I'm grabbing the Nut & Spice variety, as they have about 4 grams of carbs each.  Super tasty flavors like coconut and chocolate; vanilla, caramel and almond, and many more depending on what you are focused on with your diet or taste.  Finally, something I can grab when I'm in my car or craving a midnight sweet.  With my lack of activity since early January, I was surprised to see I had actually lost a few pounds.  Just no appetite, and hours before I had the energy to make soup, salad or leftovers.  My primary physician had spoke with me about the value in letting your body go through a fasting period during which you use up stored fat as opposed to feeding your body more calories, fat and carbs.  It's an interesting concept, but there are always new and different weight loss methods thrown at us.  I research but also take it all with a grain of salt.  I do feel it's working a little for me, I'm not a huge eater until hours after waking up, and that leaves a good 15 hour window of fasting.  

So, off I go.  Another week of busyness ahead and I'm looking forward to it.  I have the wind at my back, and I'm letting go of everything that's been making me spin my wheels in life---as in forever.  I've learned over the past two months of trials and tribulations, you will find comfort in your husband, who might fumble around in the kitchen.  Your kids may be caught up in their own adult lives, and sometimes overlook that you are struggling, but have faith, you are more important to them than you think.  You deserve love and all the best when that is what you give.  My last word on blaming and feeling sorry for myself.  On to being proactive and hanging in there with the support of the ones I love.  The tide is out.

See ya soon!

Jane x