Saturday, November 23, 2019

WELCOMING A NEW BABY, THANKSGIVING & CHRISTMAS PLANS, AND A DELISH RECIPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS


I always love to start my posts with a pretty photo, usually flowers, but today I have the best ever beginning...welcome Lucy June!  Emily gave birth to this little nugget November 15.  She weighed 5 lbs., 13 oz., just a peanut.  She's absolutely beautiful and she looks so much like her mama.  And Emily was also small, 5 lb., 2 oz.  Holding Lucy for the first time was like deja vu.  So tiny and perfect.


Big sister Madelyn had been anxiously awaiting this day.  She was actually practicing feeding and diapering her baby doll in preparation.  She is so gentle and loving with Lucy, I wish I could show you so many more pictures of her with the baby.  But trust me, I be sharing when I can.  Isn't she beautiful?  Aren't they both?




Switching gears here, I was really wanting to go to some fall festivals but it simply didn't pan out.  I've joined a few Facebook neighborhood groups and it's amazing how you can find out about all the great events going on in your area.  This recent holiday shopping weekend was called Christmas At The Barn.  It's a genuine barn that was repaired and renovated for seasonal events like this.  Abby and I went last Saturday to a nearby suburb (where my son, Jeffrey, also lives, but further west and near some beautiful forest preserves).  I couldn't help but think what a perfect day it was both weather-wise and in this gorgeous wooded setting.  

  

I loved this old bike with a basket filled with evergreen.  Not something cute and flowery like we usually see, but looking like it's been suspended in time.



The shopping didn't disappoint either.  It was a mix of old and authentic, as well as new and loved.  Some vendors were local artisans so it was a good feeling to see handmade items.  Abby, who is in the midst of decorating her new home, was pretty restrained.  She is loving plaids so she picked up a few cute pillows.  There was a lot I was really wanting to buy but how could I do that when I'm in the middle of tossing and giving away holiday decorations I've collected over thirty five years?  All in all it was a fun afternoon.  I love spending time with my daughters.





Last week I was writing a holiday column for one of the newspapers and I wanted to share a recipe I came across on Pinterest.  I've always use my own recipes and photos in my articles, but try as I might, I simply can't photograph food to make it look appealing.  So I am using Pinterest once in awhile as well as recipes from my cookbooks.  If I tweak them, I share them as my own (hideous pics and all), but some recipes are just perfect as they are.  

I can't break tradition when it comes to holiday meals, The Husband and kids can be really vocal about that if you know what I mean.  To satisfy my love of trying out new recipes, I serve the usual corn but then make another side dish that looks gross to my non-vegetable eating kids/guests, but a hit with others.  

So I stumbled on this recipe for Brussels sprouts done up in a wonderful way.  I'm going to make them as a side dish on Thanksgiving.  Here is the recipe and for your convenience a link to the original.  


Parmesan Prosciutto Brussels sprouts


I think this is such a pretty dish although maybe not for everyone.  It makes me curious to dive into and discover some new tastes.  I've made a few converts with this side dish!  Finally--I hate starting a recipe only to find I didn't take note of the cooking time.  Allow yourself an hour for these and I don't recommend reheating them.


1 lb. Brussels sprouts

2 T butter
2 cloves of minced garlic
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
2 slices of Prosciutto, chopped into small pieces * 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Trim ends of Brussels sprouts, remove loose or brown outer leaves.  Slice each one in half lengthwise and place them in a large bowl.  


Melt the butter and pour over the Brussels sprouts.  Add the Parmesan, garlic, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.


Spread the seasoned Brussels sprouts over a parchment paper lined baking sheet, trying to keep some space between them, they crisp up that way rather than steam.  Place in the oven and let bake for 40 minutes until they are just starting to brown.



Turn the oven temperature up to 350.  Chop the prosciutto and scatter over the veggies and gently push them around with a spatula.  Shake the pan and return to the oven and roast an additional 10-15 minutes.  Serve immediately or cover with foil and keep warm in oven.


Layla and Poppy are really becoming good friends.  I had my doubts at the beginning as Playful Poppy has a ton of energy and was pretty much pouncing on Layla every chance she could.  I was trying to keep them separated so Layla could have some peace and quiet but then I noticed that she was actually enjoying the play fighting and having Poppy nuzzle her.  All that worry...and then things worked out on their own.  

I wish I could say it's been cool watching Poppy grow, but she's not growing.  I guess this is it, fifteen pounds of long body and legs and big 'ol floppy ears.  A lot of people ask what breed she is, I mean she really has this sort of "look", like a purebred something or other.  I can't figure out what she is but I know for sure she inherited all the traits of a cattle dog that is ever-present in her genes.  She is insanely fast, and as a friend said, she could easily be a horse rustler.  Thoughts of keeping her off-leash at the lake are feeling less and less likely.

On the medical front, whatever cold or flu I had that was making my nose and chest insanely congested seems to have passed.  The asthma isn't so great, my lungs tighten up just going up and down the stairs to do laundry. My doctor has prescribed some new meds and we are awaiting the analysis of the little germies that were scraped out of my lungs and are currently growing under a petri dish somewhere.  I also have to go for more blood workup, at this point I don't even  know what for.  I'm just happy to say that I'm writing this from a better place than the last time.

As if being sick, having a new puppy, the huge celebration of having a new grandchild, planning for Thanksgiving dinner (for which I will host dinner for a small group and then dessert for a crowd), tossing out long ago and unwanted Christmas decor, making a list and checking it twice, finding a caterer for Christmas Eve, which will also be at our home for The Husband's side of the family and easily amounts to about thirty guests including little ones...I'm in the middle of redoing one of the baths that I touched on in my last post, as well as our family room.  I'm having an anxiety attack just writing this.

My son came to my aid in offering a "jack of all trades" that he has for work on the various properties he owns.  While I thought I was going to have the tedious work of painting trim and doors, and then hiring an electrician and plumber, I now have a weight taken off me.  And I will get excellence as this guy works for Jeff and he is a hawk with his employees.  All I have left to be shipped are the light fixtures for the family room and to pick out hardware for this and that.  I found a granite dealer way out in some far flung suburb which I never would have gotten to without my GPS, and I picked out a pretty vanity top in quartz.  I look forward to sharing the finished bathroom soon.  I'm so proud that I designed (if I could actually say that), and sourced out everything and everyone I needed by my own little self.  

I could blabber on forever, as you know, but I'll cut off here.  I have confused even myself with this hodge podge of what is going on.  I actually thought Thanksgiving was the week after next.  Lists.  I need to make lists.

Thanks for visiting.  You are all such great girlfriends.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones!

Jane❤️


Saturday, November 9, 2019

HOLIDAY STRESS, OUTDOOR CHRISTMAS IDEAS, HALLMARK MOVIE CALENDARS AND MY BATHROOM RENO




Halloween 2019 In Chicago (no editing)

Hello Hello Hello!  It's always good to be back in a somewhat timely manner.  I'm hoping we are all past Halloween and looking ahead to Thanksgiving although it makes me shudder.  In all my years, whenever I host holiday dinners, I have never learned to not stress it out.  I'm a huge reader and eat up books, magazines, and websites that promise ways to handle hosting a party or simply holiday stress.  No matter, I fret over whether all the food will be ready at once, if everyone has a drink, a refill, a little tidbit,  And those that wander into the kitchen asking for the odd beverage, extra napkins, a hand towel for the bathroom (gulp).  And there never seems to be anyone around to say to, "Can you please help this person out?"  I feel my holidays have become so relaxed for my company, and perhaps routine, that everyone is happily chatting away while I'm sweating away in the kitchen and acting like a traffic officer at the same time.  The worse thing is...I apologize profusely.  We're out of ice?  Let me run out to a convenience store.  You're allergic to nuts?  Let me whip up some liver pate.  You're gluten free?  Really?  Really?????

I write for the Michigan newspaper and I'm a cross between Dear Abby, Martha Stewart, and Joanna Gaines.  No, I'm not in their league in any way but my column is geared toward encouraging readers to be the best cook, gardener, home decorator, gift wrapping professional, and above all, organizer.  No one has any idea how little I follow my own advice.  I'm really not much better than the writers of those self help-don't stress it out pieces.  So yeah, I'm not prepared and even if I were, something always goes wrong and maybe I ought to just ban guests from the kitchen.  



Christmas Inspiration

I'm definitely not planning for Christmas right now, but I do love to Pin ideas, and I came across an article on the Apartment Therapy site: "Beautiful Outdoor Christmas Decorating That's Not The Least Bit Tacky".  The Husband is not so keen on hanging outdoor lights or wreaths on windows.  He frowns on blow-up snowmen and white wooden deer sculptures (believe me, I'm open to everything).  So the outside of the house is pretty much non-Christmasy unless you count the lit up tree you can see through the living room window.  Anyway I digress, I saw this lamplight idea and I knew it was for me.  Simple.  Classic.  Beautiful.  And even though I have a phobia of climbing on ladders (thinking back to 2016 when I fell off a chair and broke my arm in three places), I'm doing it.  Nothing is going to stop me.  I may have eight people holding on to said ladder and an inflatable snowman to block a fall, but I'm decorating the porch and garage lights.  If you'd like to see some of the ideas I've Pinned, go to my page.  I have lots of good things on my boards--holiday cooking, baking, gift ideas, something for everyone.  





Lifetime Movie Calendar 2019

Maybe it's cheesy, maybe I should be watching Fleabag, Jack Ryan, or The Crown, I just can't help but feel the allure of a sweet, sappy love story set in a big city or a little town with snow and carolers, hot cocoa, and the inevitable widow/widower with children who instantly fall in love with The Love Interest.  Most times one or the other Love Interest gives up their present life to join the other Love Interest forevermore.  And all those interrupted kisses, we finally get to see one in the final thirty seconds. ❤️.  Sigh.  Just gotta love curling up and watching these movies to get away from the world.  Or your husband, kids, and needy, drooling dogs.



Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie Calendar 


You can Pin these calendars if you so wish, or download and print them.  Maybe not.  Perhaps you like Jack Ryan... John Krasinski is awfully sexy.



I had a lot of fun passing some on some info about moisturizing your skin as the really cold weather begins.  A few ladies asked about foundation that didn't make them feel like they had a mask on, so I wanted to move on to what I've learned about this sort of coverage.  

I had a rude awakening this past spring when I had been wearing Nars Natural Radiant Long Wear Foundation for a good couple of months. I love their radiant concealer for under my eyes so I thought the foundation would be a win as well.  And then I happened to see myself in a mirror in bright, natural sunlight and I couldn't believe how thick and caked it looked.  In spite of feeling I knew so much about makeup products and applying them, I hadn't really discovered the difference between full coverage and light.  I was telling the girl who does my hair about it and she recommended Bare Minerals Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream.  Back in the day I used something similar from Lancome that was a tinted moisturizer and it was prefect but I've never found anything like it since.  Long story short, although I felt that the Nars foundation was making me look line free, smoother and more radiant,  it was actually the opposite.  So I tried the Bare Minerals gel cream and I could not be happier.  When you apply, it feels like silk...I just smooth it all over my face with just my fingertips much like a moisturizer.  It evens out everything such as red spots or uneven tones, and your skin glows (and not in that bright highlighted way).  Best of all, I've come to love my freckles again (thank you, Megan Markle) and I feel fresh faced.  It is super hydrating which I love especially in the colder months, but if your skin is on the oily side, you can most likely skip your moisturizer and just use a primer before you apply it.  Good stuff.






And finally, I wanted to share an update we are doing on one of our bathrooms.  It's almost embarrassing that we still had the 1980's linoleum flooring and outdated light fixtures.  The vanity counter is pink.  The first thing we did was have the linoleum removed and the floor retiled with what you see above.  This is my actual bathroom with an overlay design board (courtesy of my interior designer daughter, Emily).  I ordered and have received the light fixtures and faucet gadgets from Home Depot.  I want to give the wall's vertical shiplap a fresh coat of white paint.  And I'm making trips to a few granite dealers to pick out a vanity top, I'm thinking something white with a little gray marbling.  The gold rimmed mirror is from Target.

My question is--- I don't want a completely black and white bath, nor a complete vintage vibe that the flooring leans toward.  I do have a bad way of mixing up too many elements in rooms that aren't  cohesive.  I'm thinking of adding rusty brown, bronze or copper colored pieces and a little bit of natural elements; plants, dried flowers, grasses, stems, or herbs, tucked in an urn, basket, something on the wall.  Please weigh in with your ideas or tips.  More to come...

Thank you all for your well wishes on this never ending bronchitis or whatever.  I saw a specialist after a chest CT scan and had a bronchoscopy of my lungs yesterday (not for the mild or timid).  A lot of bad stuff was sucked out and part of my lower right lobe has collapsed.  When, how...unknown.  Nothing to be done and it shouldn't present any problems.  So far the consensus is I have a bacterial infection in my upper left lobe and I'm getting a heavy dose of antibiotics.  My throat is a bit sore from the tube but I'm feeling much better all around.  The fluid and tissue lab results come in this week.  What a mess.  But I'm in good hands and I'm pretty tough!  So again, thanks for your thoughtful words and prayers.

Off I go now.  Hope you are having a great weekend!

Jane❤️










Friday, October 25, 2019

TIDBITS, A TRIP & DRY WEATHER SKIN TIPS


I've Fallin a Little

Hello, hello, hello!  I spent three hours last night choosing, editing and loading photos.  After that I had no energy to write so here I am 24 hours later and feeling in the groove.  Except...I have had the worst sort of flu/bronchitis/asthma thing going on for almost three weeks.  In fact, all summer I was having allergy issues, sinus congestion, sore throats and then asthma.  It hit full on a few weeks ago and I've been on antibiotics, prednisone, and several over the counter meds.  I had a chest x-ray last week and it's showing some shady areas in the upper right lung lobe so I'm having a CT scan tomorrow.  My doctor said it could very well be some pneumonia settled in that area.  

In spite of feeling like my head is going to burst and my lungs sound like a bubbling brook, I have to get out of the house.  Don't get me wrong, I've spent a lot of lazy days napping and reading, and then I get spurts of energy, get myself showered, makeup and hair full on, and I feel like I'm back in the land of the living.  Sometimes its a trip to Target for Halloween candy, A grocery store stop for fresh veggies and fruit, or Home Depot (I picked up some spring bulbs for a song and actually planted them today while I wheezed and coughed.  I'll be grateful next spring).  Actually, the cold air clears out my lungs a bit.  




Cousin Love

Another fun night, I met two of my cousins for apps and drinks at a little pub near our homes.  Left to right: the three J's: Judy, Jane and Joanne.  Our fathers, now gone, were brothers.  When we were young my parents moved west to what became a Chicago suburb, and the rest of the family stayed on the Southside.  I came back when I married The Husband, as ironically, this is where he is from as well.  All of my cousins live so close, and these two, my faves, live just a few blocks each from me.  And it's also funny, the house that daughter Abby and Tom bought is diagonally across the street from the pub so we can park there and not use a valet (of course in the summer we can walk!) or look for street parking.  One of these days as the young couple get more settled in I'll see if she lets me take some pics of their home to share.  


Poppy Girl, 16 weeks

Poppy has gained five pounds since I brought her home.  And she has grown long; a long body and long legs--long and sleek like a greyhound.  And she can not only run like the wind, but she cuts sharp corners and does flying leaps over anything in her way.  Thankfully we have a really large backyard.  I'll try to get a video of her one day.  She's got that cattle dog gene, no doubt. She loves everyone, she plays with Layla in a way that Layla may have missed earlier in life.  
Milo was always more of a 'people' dog, and he just tolerated his cousins Tulo, Squall, and sister Layla.  

Lake Girl Maddy

Madelyn, her mom and daddy, as well as The Husband, went up to the lake recently to put away the outdoor furniture and such.  I was in the midst of this 'whatever-I-have sickness, and stayed home.  I started feeling a little envious when they started texting me pictures of the festivals and farms they visited, picking pumpkins, playing games, hayrides, corn mazes.  Wow, fall in the country is incredible.  The wheels in my mind are turning fast and I think we should make a good weekend out of it next year for all the kids and grands.  


Madelyn striking a pose

I had to share this second photo of Mad.  She is a true model.  I love this outfit.  Emily finds the cutest clothes on Etsy and little known shops on the Internet.  She's also in a buy/sell group on Facebook and gets bargains on some of her favorite brands.  Lately Madelyn has been sporting these pretty braids.  Em said she's been learning how to do them on You Tube.  Well this little girl loves the glam life as you can see.  Sister Lucy will be inheriting all these cute outfits, she's arriving in about three weeks.  I am beyond excited!



The beautiful rolling hills and farmland of Western Illinois

I kind of skipped over a trip The Husband and I made to Galena, Illinois in late September.  Most of you know we meet up with former blogger, Cindy, and her hubby, Dan every year for a weekend getaway.  After Cindy and I got to know each other through blogging in 2009, we just took the plunge to meet up, ironically in Galena, which is an equal three hour drive for each of us.  Other places we have met are Lake Geneva, WI., Madison, WI., Cedarburg, WI., Chicago, and our lakehouse in Michigan (a seven hour drive for them).  It's a unique and genuine friendship we have that has stood the test of time and miles.  Cindy and I pick up where we've left off as we walk, shop and talk.  We often say how we wish we lived close to each other.  She is in Western Wisconsin, not far from Minneapolis.  But we text and talk on the phone.



The Galena Renaissance Riverboat Inn

I don't know how The Husband and I got this suite, Cindy made the reservations and for a little bit less, she and Dan just got a regular room with a bath.  This was jaw dropping.  Not only did it have a spacious living room as you can see in the above photo, the bedroom was large, it had a giant whirlpool tub in its own room complete with plants and a tropical ambience, a kitchenette, and separate bathroom.


The Bedroom

Fabric, rugs, paintings and just about everything depicted lions, tigers and zebras.  The heavy drapes and over abundance of pillows made it cozy yet almost to the point of feeling suffocated.  



The Spa

This room consisted only of a gigantic whirlpool hot tub.  It was pretty opulent with the whole safari thing going on, plants and wild animals baring their fangs.  We never got around to using it.  It was situated off the hallway to the kitchenette and bathroom, and across from the bedroom.  And it had a large window in said hall looking right in.  We couldn't quite make out what it was about.  



Peek-A-Boo

It rained the entire weekend.  Even with umbrella's, it put a bit of gloom over our rare time together.  But the Zebra Suite saved us.  We saw a magician who also doubled as a comedian at a small, intimate theater Saturday evening.  The Husband and I had made an earlier trip to a nearbyWalmart and bought cheese and crackers, various other tidbits, some craft beer and wine, and we settled in our 'living room' to chat, watch CNN, and then Saturday Night Live.  We stayed out of the rain and The Zebra Room paid off!

Sooooo, now I want to head off into a different direction with the blog.  I want to take some varied ideas and format.  I'm feeling a little stagnant in simply sharing photos and snippets of my life.  I want to talk about other aspects of my life and the things I love, the trivial info I pick up in my never ending search for living my best life, doing the best with what I have, sharing thoughts and feelings on life, love and family. 

A long time ago I wrote a post about makeup products I used. I realized quite quickly it was not for the audience I had. Long story short, when I asked readers what their makeup routines were like as well as what products they used, I had a small handful that identified with me and my love of makeup and products, and a large percentage who rarely wore makeup, simply owned one lipstick, and had no desire to fuss with anything. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.  This time around I want to have more discussion.  I hope all of you ladies open up about your lives, wants and needs.  I'd like to cover subjects like self care, health issues and management, mental health, and of course, some lighter stuff...shopping habits, finding the best deals, organizing your home, thoughts on decorating and trends, what we do in our downtime to unwind...wow, I'm excited to start.  Give and take.  I hope you are up for it.  

So firstly, I'm jut going to start with some skin care products I have been using that I'm absolutely loving and feeling the changes they have made in my skin.  Please note, I am not affiliated with any of these products.   

REN Flash Hydro Boost

This product came as a sample from Sephora with a purchase.  It was a generous size and lasted for a good two weeks.  Please note, when you are browsing through Sephora, you can ask for samples of any of their products, free and unlimited.  One day I decided to try out this little tube and I was glad I read the instructions.  It's an emulsion so it needs to be mixed with water to thin out the concentrated product.  Just a pea size amount dotted on your face, some water on your fingertips and then you just gently massage it into your face.  The smell is fragrant but in a natural way, the gentle massaging makes you feel relaxed and your skin stimulated, and after...my skin felt like a baby's bottom.  It claims to plump your skin, I'm not sure if it did but I know that as I ran my fingers over my face after it felt changed, very smooth.  There is no greasy feeling, no waiting for it to settle in.  This will be my go-to for a very long time.
  .
Ever Calm Recovery Balm

When we sleep our skin cells are busy renewing, repairing and dividing.  And that's the best time for your skin to receive the multiple impact from the products you put on your face.  I have always felt that the heavy creams I slather on at bedtime are just rubbing off on my pillowcase, but this night balm is a whole different ballgame.  It goes on easily and you just massage a little bit in, it's very spreadable and non greasy in spite of being a balm.  In the dry weather, I feel like I wake up with more fresh and moistured skin.  This is a keeper for me.

REN also offers cleansers, treatments and products for oily skin.  The prices are on the high end so it's definitely something you have to consider.  I highly suggest you check out Sephora to get samples, and then you can find the best price either from REN, Amazon, or Sephora.  





CereVe Moisturizing Lotion

This lotion as well as the large jar of cream are long time standbys for me at good prices.  Found at just about any store, you can even go online for coupons.  The name stands for ceramides which maintain the skin's moisture barrier, and hyaluronic acid which plumps the skins cells and replenishes lipids.  I have been on the hyaluronic acid bandwagon for quite a while.  When I was having terrible eczema, which I can happily say is now in remission, I went to one of the world's top dermatologists based in Chicago.  A Harvard Medical school grad, international speaker. and author of many textbooks on dermatology, he recommended CereVe products.  You can't beat the price.  The cream is heavy, I use it on my body after a shower.  On damp skin it spreads really well if you pat it on as well as smooth it out.


 I hope this isn't too long and boring.  And jeez, it's only three products.  Sometimes I feel so strongly about something I want to emphasize why.  

So...comment on those cute little pics of Madelyn, or the odd weekend we had in Galena, but also share your skincare routine and thoughts on new products..  We'll see if my branching out of my box is going to be receptive.

If you missed my last post, I featured a lot of great recipes.  You can find it here.

See ya soon!

Jane❤️

Monday, October 7, 2019

MAKING THINGS FALL & GREAT COOL WEATHER RECIPES




Hello Everyone!  I am turning over a new leaf (definitely a pun intended here).  I have to pick up the slack with posting and I think that may not be hard to do with the shorter days and me being all comfy and cozy in my PJ's at 7:00 p.m.  That gives me plenty of time to watch CNN, the Chicago news, and then an episode of The Real Housewives of ----, or a Hallmark movie (depending on my mood).  

I wanted to get back on here just a few days after my last post, but I didn't feel I had anything new to share.  The truth is, I haven't been using my camera very much and I need to work on that, so subsequently, I can't seem to weave my words together without that.  Tonight I decided I'd share some of my recipes that I have posted in the past focusing on cool weather fare, and I'll bring you all up to snuff on happenings in Blondieville as I go along.  You will find the Save icon on each photo to add them to your Pinterest boards

This first recipe is simple (as long as chopping isn't a chore for you).  I happen to find it therapeutic.




Beef Noodle Soup with Soy & Ginger

1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 T grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced matchstick style
2 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 quart beef broth
3 T soy sauce
1 t toasted sesame oil
S & P
4 oz. noodles (spaghetti, Soba, egg noodle...your choice)

Cook the onion, ginger, garlic and scallions in the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat 5 minutes.  Add the carrots, cabbage and broccoli and cook another 5 minutes.  Pour in the broth as well as 2 cups of water, soy sauce and sesame oil.  Bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper.  Let simmer 10 minutes and add noodles.  Cook 5 minutes or until they are tender.  Serve with a pinch of sliced scallions sprinkled over the top.

This cooks up very quickly as you can see but the chopping takes awhile.  I happen to love chopping, it's relaxing for me.  You may want to prepare the veggies earlier in the day and then the whole soup will go together super quick in time for dinner.  

**********

Indoors I haven't been doing a whole lot in the fall decorating department.  I brought up a box of odds and ends from downstairs last week and it's still sitting on the counter.  And I have so much more.  I'm trying to purge this insane, disorganized, and cluttered room in my basement that's filled to the brim with holiday and seasonal decor.  I really feel I will chuck most of it but I'll set aside some things to bring to a local thrift store.   I've actually been on a sorting, purging and organizing mission...shoes, boots, purses, clothes.  I do feel much lighter in my heart when I donate.






I loooooove stuffed peppers but I wanted something  different than the tried and true ground beef, rice, and tomato sauce.  You can cut the heat in this filling by the type of peppers you use.

Jane's Spicy Stuffed Peppers

These were fun to make, and I just made it up as I want along.  I had a bit of an uncooked piece of center cut pork roast.  I used 1/2 of a piece of Chorizo sausage that usually comes in two lengths per 12 oz. package.  You can control the spice when using the Cajun spices and jalapeño peppers.  I've also been using farro as a go to for rice as it is slightly lower in carbs and all around healthy.

2 bell peppers, sliced in half and seeds removed
1 small piece of pork, about 1 1/3 cup,  chopped a little less than the size of a dice. 
3 oz. chorizo sausage, pulled apart into small pieces
1/2 cup farro
1/2 T canola oil
jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced  
1 poblano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 plum tomato, seeded and roughly chopped
1 c black beans
2-3 T Cajun seasonings
1 T oregano,
2 c Mexican cheese, divided
S&P to taste

Cook the farro in a good amount of water approximately 20 minutes until tender.  Drain  and set aside.  Meanwhile, sauté the pork cubes in the canola oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring and tossing occasionally.  Add the remaining ingredients including the farro, and 2/3 of the cheese.  Cook 5 minutes until well mixed and the flavors starting to meld.

Trim the bottom side of the bell pepper very thinly so that they will sit steady in the baking dish.  Spoon the sautéed  mixture into the four pepper halves, pressing it in firmly.  Top with the last bit of cheese.  Place the pepper halves in the dish and pour a scant bit of water around them so that they will stream.  Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side.


                                                               *******


I'm still a little behind the eight ball in decorating for fall.  My planters and window boxes are still looking good and I hate tossing something that's living.  We are however, having nights that go down to the 40's, so I'm contemplating their demise within the next few days.  I want to add some spring bulbs to fill in some areas in the backyard, and I'm thinking of trying my hand at planting some lilac bushes.  The Husband grew up with them in his childhood home so I think he'll like this.  I hope to get out this week and pick out some pansies, bulbs, and a mum or two.  When I take Poppy for her  walks I love to look at all of the pretty homes in my neighborhood and soak in the inspiration.🍁




Cheese & Onion Herb Spread

1 c. shredded Asiago (or Parmesan) cheese, divided
2 c. finely diced yellow onion
1/4 c. plain Greek yogurt
4 t. olive oil, divided
2 T. minced garlic
2 t. dried rosemary or 2 T fresh
Salt and pepper to taste

1)  Sauté onions in 2 t. olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until soft.  Set aside.  

2)  In food processor or blender combine beans and yogurt.  Pulse until smooth.  Add S & P, remaining 2 t. olive oil, garlic and rosemary and 1/3 c. Asiago cheese.  Pulse until smooth and creamy. 

3)  Transfer bean mixture to a shallow ovenproof dish.  Top with half the onions, half the remaining cheese and then repeat.  Bake at 450 for ten minutes.  Serve hot or at room temp with crackers, toasted bread or crudités.  YUM!!!!



Pumpkin Cheese Ball

I loved making this last fall, very simple and fun and a big hit when I brought it to my son's engagement party back in 2015.  Here's the recipe if you missed it.

8 oz. cream cheese
10 oz finely chopped sharp cheddar
1/4 c  blue cheese crumbles
2  t Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t celery salt
1/4 t  onion salt

 Mixture of approximately 1 cup finely chopped walnuts and 1 T paprika

*****

Mix first 6 in a standing or hand held mixer.  Roll into a ball shape and chill 1/2 hour while you grind up walnuts and mix with paprika in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Place the ball of cheese on a large piece of parchment paper.  You will need to shape the cheese into a pumpkin shaped form.  Bring the parchment paper up and around the cheese ball to keep from making it sticky and shape it into a round larger from the middle down.  Once done,  pat the walnut/paprika mixture all over.  Using a butter knife, score the 'pumpkin' like the real deal from top to bottom in a curved fashion.  Add a real stem (wrapped in plastic at the bottom) or a piece of celery for the stem.  Chill an hour before serving with crackers.  I doubled the recipe to make the cheese pumpkin you see in the above picture.  Serves about 12.  Maybe more. 




Simple Granola with Fruit and Nuts (Blondie's Version)

*****

3 cups oats
3/4 c slivered almonds
3/4 c raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/4 c canola oil
1/2 c maple syrup
2 t vanilla extract
1 c dried cranberries
1 c dried apricots (chopped)
(you may substitute any dried fruit you like chopped uniformly)
2 T honey

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
In a large bowl mix the first 5 dry ingredients.  In a small bowl stir together the oil, syrup and vanilla.  Drizzle the syrup mixture over the dry and mix thoroughly.  Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 50 minutes, stirring every once in a while to brown evenly.  Remove and toss with dried fruit.  Drizzle with honey and let cool.  Store in an airtight container.




Warm Bacon and Blue Cheese Dip

This is a hot dip your guest will remember, and if you bring it to a gathering, everyone will want to know the recipe.  Be like me.  Don't hand it out.  It's yours.  Guard it with your life.  Unlike I have just done here.  

******
2 8 oz packages of cream cheese
2 T half & half
7 pieces of cooked bacon, coarsely chopped (reserve 1 T)
1 T chives
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
4 oz blue cheese

2 T chopped walnuts


Beat cream cheese and half and half in a mixer until somewhat smooth.  Stir in bacon, garlic and blue cheese.  Spread in a medium size casserole or pie dish.  Top with chives, garlic and blue cheese.  Sprinkle walnuts and remaining bacon pieces over and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Serve with crackers, pita chips, or small toast squares.  Be prepared for compliments.


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I sometimes wonder how this house here in the city sits so patiently while I'm at the lake.  And in the brief bits of time I come home, nothing much happens but a good cleaning and laundry.  I've been back now for a few weeks and it's been a whirlwind of appointments, get togethers with family and friends, stocking the fridge and cabinets, and doing all that purging I mentioned.  I also got us moving in redoing one of our bathrooms.  It's not a full gut, just the flooring, a new vanity top, and light fixtures.  The floor is done, and I'm almost decided on the light fixtures, then I'll call an electrician.  I'm also having some rooms painted to freshen them up, and little things here and there.  I like that The Husband is a little more laid back on me making some of these decisions, I don't feel I was very much interested in the past as to the bare bones of our houses, but I'm enjoying the process of changes.   I'll keep you posted.  




I'm sharing a recipe for my very own tried and true stew and I promise, if you make this version you will never go back to the one you've been doing.  As always, you can substitute veggies and seasonings. Use what you have on hand.  


Jane's Beef Stew

1 lb. beef stewing meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 c. flour
2 T veggie oil
1 c red wine
 1 48 oz. box of beef broth
1 c each chopped onion, celery and carrots
1 medium red potato, cubed
1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed
S&P to taste
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried thyme
2 t. cinnamon
2 t nutmeg
1 bay leaf

Toss the stew meat with the flour in a large bowl while heating oil in a large oven proof pot or dutch oven.  Brown the cubes on all sides over medium high heat, turning when meat loosens from bottom of pot.  Remove to a plate and set aside.  Carefully add the wine and stir, scraping up bits of meat off the bottom of the pot.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Add the meat, veggies and spices and continue to boil 5 minutes.  Stir well, cover the pot with a lid and place in preheated oven at 325 degrees for 2 hours.  Remove and adjust seasonings to your liking.  Serves 4.

You will love this! Don't omit the cinnamon, it adds a bit of smoky but smooth flavor that's almost indescribable.   In this particular stew I used some Brussels sprouts sliced in half.  Use up what you have in your veggie bin or just switch things around as you prefer.

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In other Blondie News, the newlyweds, Abby and Tom bought their very first home.  They haven't fully moved in as they are having all the rooms freshly painted, the wood floors stripped and stained a darker shade, and one of the baths is being gutted.  It really is exciting.  Not only were they storing everything from their apartment on the Northside of Chicago while they lived at Tom's family home,, they had gotten tons of shower and wedding gifts that they can finally enjoy.  I spent a few hours there today where Tom was able to have all of "the boys" over for the Bears game.  Emily helped unpack dishes and I stood around making suggestions--ha ha.  No--seriously, the backyard is small, but the previous homeowners grew veggies in raised beds and Abby said, "I don't know anything about gardening, come on over whenever you want."  This is more exciting to me than my own home!  I'm eager to get started.

That's it for now except a photo of my Poppy.  Expect a lot of these as well as reports on her antics. 



She's cute, even when she's sleeping with here favorite toy,  Lamb Chop.  Don't you love all of her spots? ❤️❤️❤️

See you soon.  Let me know if you like any of these recipes enough to try them!

Jane

***I apologize for all of the changes in fonts and size of fonts.  I copied and pasted most of my recipes and I have no idea why some worked and others were funky. Let's just have a laugh!