Monday, June 25, 2018

SUMMER PLEASURES & SOME GREAT LIGHT RECIPES




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.


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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!

Jane

Sunday, June 3, 2018

LAZY LAKE DAYS & GIVING AN OUTDATED TABLE A FRESH LOOK


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