Tuesday, June 30, 2020

HAPPY SUMMER! GARDENING,THE LITTLE ONES, & A QUICK RECIPE




Hello, friends!  So glad to be back (again, so soon!).  A little odd that when we were really sheltered in place for several months, I just never felt inclined to post.  Maybe I'm just feeling a little more energy now.  I'm not doing a whole lot more other than seeing family and grocery shopping, a few trips to the garden nurseries.  Going back and forth to the lake gives me a nice change of scenery.  Illinois is now open with a lot of restrictions and our numbers have gone down.  I pray everyone continues to practice the social distancing, masks, and hand washing.  How is everything in your area?

Anyway, you know I like to start with a pretty photo.  I'm working very hard on my garden beds here in the city because I've been here longer than usual.  We have a huge backyard as far as city norms; great for badminton, corn in the hole, kids running through the sprinkler, a little soccer, space for the dogs to play. 


This is the north side and that's crazy Poppy chewing on a stick or something.  The afternoon shadows make it hard to see the border left of my little woodland garden.  I have sedum, phlox, lilies, spiderwort, speedwell, milkweed, and tons of tulips and daffodils,  Once those spring bulbs are spent, I pull off the brown leaves and fold the rest over, securing loosely with a rubber band.  Never cut them to make room for the rest of your flowers, they need them for nutrient.  Doing what I do makes room for your summer plants.  The south side has a bed which is undergoing a lot of changes.  Whew, I'm worn out and sore every evening.  A long hot shower and scrubbing the dirt off is the best remedy.  Sometimes I wonder how I do all the bending, squatting, and lifting with all the metal and screws in my back.  Maybe it's a good surgeon or maybe it's just good stretching.  ðŸ˜




I bought a lot of plants at the nursery at the lake.  They have a super selection of perennials and the prices are very reasonable.  This was my haul.  I have this fancy dandy plastic wagon thing.  I place all my plants (and also groceries) in this and roll it wherever needed.  What a time saver and easy on the 'ol back.  With my plants, I can add some water from the hose into it so that they can bottom water until I get them planted.  



The other day Poppy was making a fuss near my day lilies.  The Husband went over and then called me to come quick.  Here was this magnificent moth.  I don't know how I knew it was a moth, perhaps the huge, fuzzy body.  



He carefully picked it up with this magazine cover and brought it around to our patio table.  It wasn't moving much at all.  Then we took pics and let it go in some greenery outside the backyard, safe from our dogs.  I managed to find it on Google, it's called a Polyphemus moth.  The photos I saw were incredible.  Our guy was actually a lot smaller than some.  We learned they only live about five
days so maybe it was near the end as it was so chill with us. 😥. They have no mouths, so they don't eat, and they are only here to mate and leave something behind.  How it landed here, I'm not sure.  We had several trees trimmed in April so maybe there were cocoons.  What an amazing experience!




Sausage, Vegetables & Kalamata Olives over Orzo.

I'm going to break things up here with a recipe.  This is actually my own picture- Ta-Da!  You all know how bad I feel about the poor quality of my photos of food.  I probably share 1/4 of the dishes I make because of the hideous pictures I take which I think turned out delicious.  

I keep my grocery list and cost to a minimum mostly because of my feelings about being in public places during this pandemic.  I also go back and forth to the lake so much that I either cart food to and fro in cooling bags, or I spend more money shopping there.  The verdict is: I often wind down to what I have in cabinets, and the freezer and fridge.  I love the challenge of cooking with just a few items, such inventiveness!  Without further ado, this meal worked really well one night and I've vowed to make it many more times.  

2 Italian sausage links, casings removed, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, sliced 
2 c fresh spinach, loosely chopped, or 5 oz of frozen, thawed and water squeezed out
1/4 c red onion, thinly sliced
2 large cloves garlic (or more), minced
6-8 oz uncooked orzo
1 c whole Kalamata olives
I T olive oil + more as needed
Pinch of red pepper flakes 
S & P to taste

Start the orzo in a pot of boiling water according to package directions.  Once done, drain, reserving 1 cup of the starchy water.  Return the pasta to the pot with a splash of olive oil and keep covered. 

 Meanwhile, sauté the sausage over medium heat until almost cooked through.  Add  the tomatoes, spinach, onion, an d red pepper flakes.  Cook over low heat about 3 minutes until just softened.  Stir in the garlic for the last minute, adding a bit of the pasta water as needed to keep everything saucy.  Divide the orzo over 4 plates.  Top with the sausage mixture.  Scatter the Kalamato olives all around. Adjust seasonings to your taste.  Serves 4.

We had a few slices of Italian bread with this dish.  Absolutely wonderful for using just a little bits and pieces from the fridge just waiting to be used up. Let me know if you give this recipe a try. :)




Lucy June

I came home from the lake to celebrate Emily's 33rd birthday.  The memories of her birth always come back so vividly.  She was my firstborn, I was twenty-seven years old and so naive. We hadn't even considered names, and never thought to ask whether it was a boy or girl.  I'm so grateful for the experience.  Many haven't gone through this but I hope for many, that just being there for young family members, the children of friends, fostering or adopting fills your heart...and for those who continue to try, all my prayers.🙏 

We had Emily, Mike, and the two littles ones over for a steak dinner with crab cakes--surf and turf.  I need to brush up on the crab cakes,  I made them earlier and refrigerated them not wanting the kitchen to smell like grease and fish.  I reheated them in the oven before serving and they were limp and flavorless.  Bad mistake.  The chocolate cake made up for it!

And Lucy June was christened last Sunday.  Just grandparents, the godmother and father.  The church was empty, and the lunch celebration was limited to six people as mandated at the time, so The Husband I couldn't attend.  But the church was the best part.  I love the whole celebration, as in the past with all of our grands and our own children.

Lucy wore the same gown as Madelyn.  It was custom made from Emily's wedding dress, all satin and tulle ruffles along the bottom.  It's a beautiful keepsake.



I can't get enough of Madelyn.  She was a little out of sorts and confused by the celebration although she attends Sunday mass.  Look at that dress! I gifted Emily with some dresses and outfits from Boden USA,  If you are familiar with the British company, it's just the most precious patterns and fabric, and the best quality you can get for your money. and she's hooked.  Em washes all the baby clothes on gentle with a mild soap and hangs each and every piece to dry.   


Madelyn & Lucy


So--my little Poppy girl made it through the spaying and had her stitches removed at a veterinarian clinic near the cottage. Then she came down with painful infections in both ears.  The vet asked if she had been in the water and she hadn't yet, but she rolls in everything, including the marshy grass near the shore.  The doctor treated her with a med that lasts 30 days and in the meantime, she can't get wet.  So we haven't been able to get her used to swimming, although I doubt she has any qualms.  While hanging out along the water before the infection, she gifted me with a bunch of weeds, lily pads, and a dead snail.  And I can't bathe her!!



A snap from the front of the veterinarian hospital.  I talk a lot about the lake but there is so much more to love and be grateful for in just being surrounded by fields, farms, barns, and a wide open green paradise with fresh air.  

I'm off again tomorrow, the last day of June.  In past years I've settled in around May.  Everything is off due to the Covid, and sometimes I feel I've missed the summer.  But we haven't, it's only June.  I'll be back the week after the 4th of July for an appointment and (finally) a hair appointment!  I'm back to being brown, and just a bit of gray strands (thank you good genes!), and I haven't had a cut since January.  I like my hair long  but this is looking scraggly.

SO:

1) How are you coping with the pandemic right now?
2).  Anything good happening in your garden?  How's your weather?  Super humid and hot here in the Midwest.
3)  Cooking or trying new recipes?
4). Activities that keep you happy and moving?

Again,

Love and Lysol,

Jane




Friday, June 19, 2020

LOVING SUMMER, SOME GARDEN TIPS & A REFRESHING SALAD RECIPE





I'm currently not at the lake as I came back to Chicago for my daughter Emily's birthday and the christening of her baby girl, Lucy.  Big events that I wouldn't think of missing. I had Emily, Mike, Madelyn, and Lucy over for dinner to celebrate.  We had a little plate of apps...cheese, crackers, almonds, some veggies, and a simple cheese spread.  For dinner I made a salad, steaks, my first try at  crab cakes (which were so-so, I think), and prosciutto wrapped asparagus.  I did most of the prep work early in the afternoon so everything went smoothly and I could have a cocktail with everyone.  But in making the crab cakes earlier, refrigerating them, and reheating in the oven, made them a little soggy.  Next time I'll do everything but the frying them up which only took about 3 minutes per side.  All in all it was the perfect celebration of my firstborn just 33 years ago.  What a day back then of emotion, fear, pain, and then pure joy!  I'd do it over again in a heartbeat.  

So this is a serene little photo from the patio at the lakehouse I took before I left, the much used hanging swing and the old shed in the background.  So much more work to be done there and now I'm focused on the way I left things here in the city back in mid-May.   You know...the mindset is: It always gets done in the end.  





I love the nursery and small grocery near my house on the lake. I find plants I've never seen before, some of which I brought back to Chicago this week.  The grocery shop is all local produce and so darn fresh.  The people are friendly and helpful.  One of these days I'll take a few snaps.  This particular hanging basket of petunias had me floored.  The throats are a deep, deep purple that look almost black.  And they look almost like a pen and ink drawing.  I hope it doesn't die before I get back, we've been very hot and dry here in the Midwest for days.





I have birdbaths at both of my homes.  I have to admit I don't relish cleaning them but it really is important to do that once in a while instead of just adding water.  I always worry about gnats and mosquitos and those are really a danger for people and pets.  So I did some research and it really boils down to emptying the stagnant water in a bucket or whatever and disposing of it away from your yard or garden.  Then use the jet spray of your hose nozzle inside the basin and out.  Mix up 1 part white vinegar to 9 parts hot water, pour it in and let if soak for a bit.  Use a hard bristle brush to scour it clean and then rinse well.  Don't forget the pedestal.  To keep this work down to a minimum, remember to empty out the old water before refilling...something I'm really guilty of, and don't  have the birdbath in the hot sun which causes algae to grow and evaporation of the water.  Finally, keep it away from your feeders ,nothing like soggy seeds and squirrels hopping in and out!  I love to watch the birds flock around these baths, its always a treat to see them splashing around!!




photo credit:  Cooking For Keeps

This is such a refreshing salad and I'm always looking for something out of the ordinary for summer when we really get into our salads.  You can double or triple this if you are having guests for lunch or dinner.  It's easy to assemble and super fresh.  I love the sweetness of the melon with the saltiness of the prosciutto.  I found this on Pinterest and changed it up quite a bit.  As usual, I forgot to take a photo.  Enjoy!


Melon, Prosciutto, and Arugula salad

1 small cantaloupe melon
2 T lemon juice
1 t honey
1/4 t Dijon mustard
1 T olive oil
4 c arugula
4 oz fresh mozzarella pearls or pieces
3 oz prosciutto, roughly torn (I actually use about 6 oz as it is sooooo good!)

Use a melon baller to portion out melon or simply slice and cut out  1 inch pieces.  (Perfect for lazy and un-fancy people like me).


In a small bowl whisk together lemon juice, honey and mustard.  Gently whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.  Gently mix with arugula. Add melon, cheese, and prosciutto, toss and serve.  Serves 4-6


I hope all of you are doing well.  Illinois has not opened up completely and we continue to go down in Covid cases and deaths.  Hallelujah!  We continue to wear masks, keep the social distancing of six feet, and use one way directions in aisles of stores and other essential places.  I don't feel this virus is going to go away and I'm going to be vigilant for a long time to come.  Just my feelings.  So all the best to you, my friends.  Be healthy.  

Love and Lysol,

Jane❤️

Thursday, June 11, 2020

THESE ARE THE DAYS (WE WILL REMEMBER)



Well, hello my blog, and all of you great friends!  I'm here to get some relief from all the world events, as important as they be. I keep well aware of all the happenings, clearly spending way too much on TV, social media, newspapers, and alerts I get on my cell phone regarding anything and everything in my area. I see protests which make me afraid and other times relieved.  I hope we all continue to be diligent in staying safe during this time of contracting or spreading Covid19.  Many of us have the okay to go ahead into the world, and I can't say much more than make it safer now than we did before we were sheltered in place.  It matters a lot and will help us stay in a more normal way of living.  My thoughts anyway.

And the death of George Floyd. I was sick to my stomach to watch the footage.  I am 100% for major change.  We had peaceful protests and violent. I don't think the people who were looting and destroying property were actually there to be part of the message. This happened recently a few blocks from my home in Chicago.  Stores and shops were evacuated and closed, some boarded up.  Businesses and gas stations were shut down.  I've been in Michigan but I was worried sick about my family.  The violence is uncalled for.  Peaceful protesting sends a better message.  I'm not here to preach-just my personal feelings and what I've experienced.   

Above is a picture of my little Poppy who was  recently spayed.  She did really well but was absolutely miserable and frozen with the cone on.  My niece saw this pic and thought we posed her with  little chef's cap on!  She survived and is a happy camper now.  She always delights us.  Now 8 months old, she's maturing but some of her puppy antics have us laughing, and some--not so much.



I was really happy to zoom in on this little family of three.  Swans are majestic and I like that they spend time on our little bay.  I've always had a little info on my blog,  based on personal experience that they can be very aggressive and people on the water need to steer clear.  Never mess with nature.  They guard their little babes like all get out.  With a wing span of 6 feet, you never want to get close to them on the water.  I have been able to touch their beaks---okay, I've offered them little bits of our meals or snacks when they swim close to our guest cottage near to the water.  Surprisingly, they are quite gentle in taking a bit of food.  But I'm sincerely not a fan of interfering with the ways of nature.  


French Yogurt Cake

I'm jumping in sooner than normal with a recipe.  I'm still cooking up a storm and I find it super comforting right now.  I'm also working on gardening here at the lake and getting some herbs and veggies going, albeit somewhat later than usual.  I've been here since mid-May and and I'm chipping away everyday at the indoors and out.  But--I keep telling myself, it always gets done.  And I carve out time to sit outside, read some of my current book, and just enjoy the beauty of the lake.





So this is a recipe I found on the blog, Rosie The Londoner.  I found it unique because it not only calls for yogurt, but all of the ingredients are measured in a yogurt container.  But beware, the ounces of said yogurt container was not included in the recipe, and I found our American size was a bit smaller,  so reduce the ingredients a bit in our American yogurt cups. But it was a wonderful cake and we all loved it.  Doesn't it look good?  I used blueberries but you can always do the berry of your choice.  I was so proud as I'm not much of a baker and my pics never really look this delicious! The cake was very dense and moist, and not very sweet...the powdered sugar made it a bit more so but I would have loved it without.  This is the link.





In the city house, I recently bought a new set of stainless steel pots and pans by Calphalon. My cookware was all mismatched and pretty beat up.  Some of the cheaper pots caused my food to stick and burn so I knew I needed to make the investment.  As much as I cook, I wonder why I waited.  I do have a few heavy duty ceramic pieces of Le Creuset and I treasure them.  When I arrived at the lakehouse a few weeks ago, I took a good look at what I have here and it was dismal.  I didn't want a whole lot, just essentials that I use most of the time.  

Above is the dutch oven from Target in the Chrissy Teigan brand.  I have one of her pieces and love it.  This dutch oven is ceramic and goes from stove to oven.  I love the color and pretty copper handle.  



I have two Calphalon skillets that can go from stove to oven, but I wanted non-stick skillets as well.  These are also from Chrissy Tiegan's line. They are so easy to clean up.  Just a note: always let your cookware cool before you add any water to soak or wash.  I also pay attention to the handle and the screws as they can get a buildup which is hard to remove.  These areas are often overlooked.  





I have been longing for a piece from Staub.  It's very high end and I really couldn't find a a need---until I came to the lakehouse. I actually only have one casserole dish and I used foil to cover food in the oven.  Then one of the handles chipped and it was dangerous to use.  I was beyond happy to find this piece at Target.  Who would have thought?  I had spent so much time pricing everything from this brand at Williams-Sonoma and Sur-la-table, and it was always way above my budget.  It's a thing of beauty and it still sits on my counter: I hate to put it away!  Does anybody out there get excited about cookware?  Would you like to share what you have and would recommend?




And finally, we pretty much knew we needed more for than just the kitchen refrigerator, especially when we have company who usually brings a lot of food which we later have to refrigerate the leftovers, and because I love fresh food and veggies that take up so much room.  I found this refrigerator/freezer at Home Depot.  It's from the Unique line and a retro style which  comes in several classic colors, mine is a light minty green.  It's smaller than your conventional fridge and takes up very little space. It fits just perfectly in our laundry/mud room.  Some of my neighbors and friends who stop by go gaga over it!

So...this is it for now.  If you read this before I go back over it tomorrow, forgive any typos.  I'm too tired to edit!  But I will.

Take care all,

Jane ❤️