Monday, January 28, 2019


Flowers For You

Hello friends!

Oh, it is so dreary here and I know so many of you across the States, in Canada, and across the pond are experiencing much the same.  Right now in Chicago it's terribly cold.  Today isn't so bad...30 degrees.  But we've all been preparing for the temps to go to -12 or less degrees tomorrow, and by Wednesday, as low as -27.  Overnight we had about 4 inches of snow, that hard packed sort of stuff.  I shoveled, and although I could feel my asthma rearing it's ugly head, my back felt okay.  I've been doing more strength exercises every day instead of cardio, so I was prepared today to go outdoors to get both. 

 In light of the polar vortex doing its thing in the Midwest tomorrow, I went to the grocery store last night thinking I'd go into the week really smart.  I thought that it being a Sunday night, 5:30 p.m., and 11 degrees, that I'd have the store to myself.  Nope.  My first clue was the full parking lot and I had to park waaaaaaaay in the back.  The store was also jam packed.  Sunday must be the day they restock because they were down to the bare nothings and aisles were blocked with dollies and employees.  I got my weekly shopping done and made a beeline for home.  Then I got to thinking a little while ago about freezing pipes and unforeseen furnace problems, so I went to a closer store and bought a few cases of bottled water and fire starter logs.  And now my back is killing me so I may just lay in front of the fireplace with a cold pack. :((

Some cold weather tips I've saved from our local weather people

Dress in layers with no uncovered skin
Avoid being outside if possible
Keep dog walking fast and quick, and if you have a fenced in yard, watch them so as to not forget and leave them out longer than a few minutes
Do not use space heaters when not home or overnight
Do not use space heaters with frayed cords
Keep a drip going with your faucets so they don't freeze
Close door to unused or rarely used rooms to conserve heat
Keep cabinet doors that house plumbing open so they get heat
Use rolled up towels or blankets on floors to insulate doors leading outside
Keep water well stocked

I have been sharing the progress and pictures of my den redo on Instagram.  So this is it, minus some accessories I'm searching out.  The motivation to make the change was spurred by the fabric of these very same chairs becoming terribly worn and discolored.  I have had such great success with this furniture store, I really do believe it was the type of fabric I had.  It seemed to pick up the dye from my clothing, mostly my favorite black knit yoga pants, even after a zillion washes.  In any case, my warranty was honored at half the original cost, not for stains, but for normal wear and tear. I was very happy with that.    

I stepped out of my comfort zone.  I really wanted to steer clear of neutrals for once in my life just so I could relax and not worry about dirt and stains and what have you. I chose this fabric and I was so ecstatic when they were delivered about two weeks ago.  I barely recognized them as my own chairs!  

So, the other changes I made (and you know you've gotta do the whole change-a-roo), I found this area rug on Wayfair.  Its made to look old and faded.  I had the table and lamp.  I was so undecided on a window treatment and I looked all over, Target being the last place, which is seriously odd for me.  I found this really cute tie up curtain and I thought it was perfect. It gives a bit of a feminine feel to the room.  A few days later I decided to order this  blue velvet tufted ottoman from Pier 1.  I have the same one at the lakehouse in another fabric.  It's called the Chas.  The deal going at the time was $40 off.  Not sure if it's still going on.  Its very well made and I have been loving the velvet furniture I'm seeing being mixed in with all types of decor.  How I love to mix it up.  The Husband doesn't 'get it' until he actually sees it.  Guess who is spending a lot of time in this room? :)

Look at the detail.  You have to love the nail head detail.  You probably know that my daughter Emily is a designer and managed a high-end furniture store for a good many years.  She was really impressed with the quality of the furniture at Pier 1, so I felt really good about this choice.  All of the other details are from shopping the House of Clutter.  Oh, please enlarge this picture.  My daughter, Abby, was happy to point out that my candle still has the price sticker on it.  

Speaking of Abby, I recently drove up to Wisconsin with her and Tom to do a tasting of the menu and wine list for the their wedding reception.  It was so incredibly fun, albeit for the snow and icy weather.  Funny how dreary, wintry, and snowy weather makes a photo look black and white.  In the distance you can see the pavilion they will be married in.  Closer to where I was taking this picture is the area where the cocktail hour will be.  There will be about 12 tall tables with white tablecloths and I'm in charge of doing something very simple to decorate them.  I'm thinking just a votive candle and small vase of simple flowers.  I'm going to look at Michael's or Hobby Lobby for vases.  Any other suggestions?  

The Husband and I are going a few days early and I'm hoping that I can help calm Abby's nerves, and we can do some some last minute things together or just sit by the pool.  And then we (TH and I) are staying on an extra few days just to unwind, shop, sit by the pool.  Did I say sit by the pool?  They have one indoors and out, a hot tub, exercise facility and of course, the lake.  Maybe we'll rent a boat.  

The Happy Couple 

Oh, to be together for ten years and then decide to get married.  Still, they will be twenty-eight when they wed in July.  That's true love and commitment.  

If you've never had local Wisconsin cheese, you're missing something great.  And the owners of this long time shop were so pleasant and friendly.  I confided to one of the owners that I had a recipe which called for a rather large section of Parmesan cheese rind to add flavor (and probably salt) to it's broth.  I  tentatively asked if he had any random rind hanging around.  He was a doll.  He found a piece with a nice bit of rind and didn't charge me the full weight.  Abby and Tom were looking at me like I had three heads...I bought all types of cheese and was in heaven.  Of course I love it for snacking, but I really like a good cheese in some of my recipes.  Abby thought I'd head towards the cheese curds and root beer. ;))

I am so happy to announce that I finally have my Pinterest working!  When you hover over a picture you will see the "Save" icon and you can then Pin it and save the recipe (or any photo) to your Pinterest page.  Unfortunately,  nothing can help my sad food photos.  I'll keep plugging along.  

Now on to some recipes.  I hope you are inspired to try the.  Please know these are my own recipes.  I just love to experiment.  

Roasted Veggies with Balsamic Honey glaze

8-10 Brussels sprouts, root end trimmed and cut lengthwise (include any leaves that come off)
2 carrots, cut thinly on the diagonal
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin in 1 inch long pieces
2 slices of uncooked bacon, roughly chopped
1 T olive oil
Small pinch of salt and pepper
1 T honey
1 T balsamic vinegar 

Slice up your veggies and bacon and toss with olive oil, salt & pepper in a large bowl.  Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  Mix together the Balsamic and honey.  Remove pan of veggies and drizzle the mixture over.  Return to oven for an additional 10 minutes.  

*Please note that this amount of vegetables will fill the baking pan.  This will make them steam and create a tender and juicy vegetable.  If you like your roasted veggies a little more browned and crunchy, use 2 pans and spread them further apart.  

I made these as a side dish with a flat iron steak.  I char the whole steak in a large, ovenproof skillet over high heat, 4 minutes per side.  I use 1 tablespoon of canola oil and season it beforehand.  I finish it off in a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes for rare.  Use a thermometer to cook it to your liking.  Slice into 4 pieces after letting it rest for a few minutes.   We are cutting carbs so I didn't include any other side dishes.  

Serves 4-6

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 sautéd 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 hope you give these recipes a try.  I'm still in a lighter cooking mode after all of the holiday and comfort foods over the past few weeks.  And remember, you can Pin them to try later.

I just wanted to mention that I finished this book after foregoing doing dishes, making the bed, and emptying the trash.  After reading so many books lately that just didn't float my boat, I just loved this page turner.  I see that this British author has written quite a few books and I'm tempted to order one (or four). Will I jinx it?  Has anyone read anything by Lisa Jewell?  And thanks to those of you who gave me book and Netflix recommendations.  

I'm doing a little refresh of the master bedroom. and we are also updating one of our bathrooms in the coming weeks so I'm excited to be sharing that.  

Stay warm and safe my friends!

Jane x

***Linking up with Maria at Tuesdays at our Home 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


January Gloom outside my window

I'm back in time to be a part of the New Year in the blogging world.  What a shock.  Is this a new leaf, or evergreen branch I'm turning?  I'm just feeling good, energized.  As per usual, I came down with my after holiday cold/flu, New Years Day to be exact.  I hunkered down in bed, slept the days away, struggled with my asthma, and slowly got better.  The last few days have me congested and coughing, but oh so ready to get it all going. 

 Have you ever been incapacitated in any way, sidetracked by a bad bug or even something really bad like surgery?  You have that time to contemplate all you want to do, and maybe lament that you didn't do it when you were well.  So while I tossed and turned (when I wasn't snoring through my stuffed up nose), I thought about that linen closet that was overstuffed and overflowing,  the Tupperware in my cabinets that I had planned to organize, the new quilt and bed skirt I wanted to update our bedroom with, and the purging that never seems to end in this little old house.  I felt that frustration that I hadn't seized the day when I was feeling good.  Oh...the pressure we put on ourselves.  Happily, our weather has been mild and even if I haven't accomplished any spring cleaning, I've managed to get out almost everyday, just for a few errands.  Oh, that fresh air feels so good.

Milo is not doing well, I'll leave it at that.  A few week ago I could say that every day was different.  It's not that way anymore.  I know we are going to have to make a decision very soon.  I've been able to rework my feelings and confusion in  way that I hope helps any of you facing the decline of your pet.  We have those puppy months that we just want to eat them up, even when they are mischievous and frustrating.  And then we move on to that comfortable familiarity where they fit seamlessly into our lives, our family. The aging stage may come on gradually...the slowing down, the graying of their fur, and many other physical changes, and we start to realize they won't and will not live forever.  

With Milo, I have watched him go from a 7 week old puppy, to a 15+ year old dog.  I often think of these stages, and while I feel grateful to have had this great amount of time, there are days when I think this is the one part of his life where I hold the strings.  I have to decide when it ends.  It's very hard.  I write this now because I don't think I'll be able to later.

Ah, weekends in the cold Midwest.  It's hard to come up with things to do, especially when you have to weigh going out into that gloomy, miserable weather, or just stay warm and comfy inside.  Other than a few little trips out for groceries or errands, The Husband and I tried a few new restaurants nearby.  One featured Vietnamese, Thai and French food.  It was an incredible menu and we each had scallops done in completely different ways.  We will definitely be back.  Another was a Brazilian place and that also had a great menu, small but that makes you want to try everything over time.   

It has also been a long time since The Husband and I have explored antique shops and malls.  An effort to keep clutter down,  no specific desire or need for anything, and the fact that we have been to many places in and around our homes in Illinois and Michigan, sometimes multiple times, these outings have fallen to the wayside. 

Sometimes you get an inkling for pieces you'd like to focus your search on, and for me it was to scout out some of my favorite things that I had lost sight of. I've always loved mismatched silverware, and pretty much anything silver plate, and in this venture, I was really longing for candle holders and silver trays.  I've also been looking for vintage mirrors.  The chippy windows that I love are starting to get old, and I'm longing for a huge old mirror, or a few to layer above that massive fireplace mantel I have and loathe.  Of course, I've gotten inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram...these are great sources for stirring up ideas you haven't yet put your finger on.

So, my frugal haul.  I found so many little Christmas treasures.  At the risk of offending anyone who loves vintage, and that's really a huge part of scouring antique stores,  I don't collect that sort of thing.  I personally can't commit to a lot of small pieces, nor does it play a part in my decor, holidays or anytime.  But...sometimes you find things that tug at your heart.  

I couldn't resist these!  I have two little vintage Santa salt and pepper shakers that are going to look darling next to my little old guys.  I think I paid about a dollar for these.  All Christmas items were 50% off.


It took awhile but I found a set of silver-plate candle sticks.  These are large and heavy and have the perfect amount of tarnish (or patina).  I'm going to keep looking... I simply love them compared to glass and crystal, although I wouldn't stick my nose up to any! ;-D

I never gave much thought to vintage Christmas ornaments, although I love seeing my  blogger friends with original boxes of Shinybright ornaments, not because of their value, but those who have had them passed on from generations.  While I was checking out, I quickly Googled the Holly brand. One box was being sold on eBay for $36.00.  The box is in perfect condition and I guess the matters.  Wow, I really know nothing about the collecting world.  I paid $4.

My growing up years remind me of the Dick Van Dyke Show.  We had mid-century modern furniture,    large lamps, star burst mirrors, and huge ashtrays on the coffee table.  But nothing old.  It seems my parents shed everything from family and city life in Chicago to start over in the middle of nowhere Illinois. 

When my father passed a few years ago, I think what my sisters and I were very agreeable on and wanted to share, were the Christmas ornaments that hung on our fresh tree every year.  I really prized them, although I can't really remember any particular one.  It's just a special feeling that these were on that tree in a room where I laughed and played as a tiny little girl until I was grown and gone.  

You can also see the little bells in the picture that I thought could jazz up a wreath, and in the front right corner, six silver-plate napkin rings.  Perfectly tarnished for the grand 'ol price of $2.  Happy dance! :)

This year I decided to put things away properly.  My cleaning girl has offered to help me organize all of my seasonal and overflow decorations and pieces.  The first thing I did was order divided cartons that hold 64 ornaments each.  I first looked at The Container Store and once I added what I needed to my cart, I nearly fainted at the total cost.  So I went to and this is what I ordered.  Not a bad price at all.  

I've also added to the large plastic bins that go on sale at this time of year.  I like the ones at Home Depot.  They can be stacked and labeled and save tons of space.  I will be so relieved when that downstairs spare bedroom is organized and clean.  I've actually started to store things in Abby's old room, or our guest-less room.  Do you have any storage tips to pass on?

Jane's Shrimp and Vegetable Soup

After the carb infused, filling foods over the holidays, I was craving light and simple.  I was thinking clear soups, more broth than anything.  This picture above actually photographed a lot thicker than it actually was because of the color of the tomatoes I added.  But believe me, it was light and fresh and I can imagine eating it chilled during the summer months.

20-25 medium shrimp, cleaned, peeled and deveined
2 32 oz. boxes of chicken or vegetable stock
1 T olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/4 in. rounds
1 plum tomato, chopped
1 T dried thyme
Small pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 c fresh spinach, roughly cut

Heat the oil over low in a large soup pot or dutch oven.  Add shallots and sauté until just tender.  Add garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes.  Pour in the stock and bring to a boil.  Add the green onions, carrots, tomato, thyme, red pepper, and S&P.  Reduce to a simmer with lid on for 15-20 minutes.  Add the shrimp and let cook 2 minutes.  Stir in the spinach, adjust seasonings and serve.
Serves 6-8.  I added a little shaved Parmesan to the top and also had some toasted garlic bread on the side.  

I still don't have that Pin button working. the meantime you can copy and paste my recipes to a folder if you'd like.  

Just a few questions.  Please tell me what you're watching on TV now and really loving.  Also, some book recommendations would be great.  I finished Kitchen Yarns, which I wrote about in my last post, and just started a new one called Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell.

This is a page turner so don't pick it up unless you have a good amount of time to get into it.  Read about it and order here if you'd like.

Enjoy these slow days of January.  Find simple pleasures and when you are bursting with unspent energy, bring some organization and changes to your home.  Before you know it spring will be here and you won't want to be inside!

Jane x