Tuesday, July 19, 2016

THE FIFTH SEASON AND VACAY TIME


Hello Friends.  It's just little 'ol me.  I simply can't believe that summer is so far along.  I wrote my August newspaper column the other day (yes...we do it way ahead of time) and I suggested the idea of a fifth season.  From mid~August to the end of September, perhaps.  That bit of lull we have when summer is waning (as well as our heat tolerance) and the anticipation of cooler weather, shorter days and the coziness of moving back indoors begins to look welcome.  Yep, I think an additional season is a winning idea.

I'm just sharing a few pictures from the garden that look pretty darn good in spite of the heat we are having.  We've had some good rain recently, but unfortunately it spawned tornado's to the west of Chicago.  Severe weather is now predicted and broadcasted so much better than before, I assume a result of better technology.  It's truly prepares us but it also sets off a lot of anxiety for me (and others) who have a deep fear of threatening weather.  The Husband had to pry me from the TV the other night at 11:00 p.m. as I clutched my flashlight and phone.  I don't think I'll change.  Is ignorance bliss?  Or just plain stupid?



One of my younger sisters once said that she always started out gardening in the early spring with a ton of energy in buying, planting and tending her garden.  By August she was tired of it all and could care less if everything died.  I sometimes feel that way.  Maybe I was a little over zealous in the spring and planted more flowers than I could take care of.  I really love potted plants as I can surround my patio with them...the borders of my yard are a little far off to appreciate the color and beauty unless you take a little stroll.  Back in June I would meticulously water and weed and sweep my patio.  Well, I'm not so  fussy now.  But the other day I had to make a run to Home Depot and the prices on perennials were outstanding.  Of course I came home with a few: some Shasta daisies, coneflowers and Carpathian Harebells.  I picked up a cell pack of impatiens to fill in some pots that had lost a few flowers.  Heck~~~we do have some time before that fifth season!  I'll never have as much time here in the city to play with my garden as I've had this summer and last.  The time at the lake and the gardening there makes it overwhelming to come back here and go at it again.  So plants that come up year after year make me very happy.  :-D



I've dogsat granddog Tulo two weekends in a row.  My son needs to book him in the doggie hotel a little more in advance.  I truly love this 100+ pound ball of happy fur and he's very much at home here, but you can see how cramped his style is. This is my favorite little room, the den.  The Husband and I usually watch a movie together on Saturday night.  I joked with my son that his bathrooms are larger than my den (seriously...and all 5 of them).  Then again, Tulo might like the coziness.  He's actually an English Cream Retriever but Jeff gets him groomed almost like a Lab in the summer to keep him cool.  Isn't he beautiful?



Emily took this precious picture of Elsie at her home recently.  I think it's the angle but our little girl is only 17 months.  She looks about 2 here!  She's really learning to talk and as I've mentioned before, we have her here about 3 hours every Thursday night while the parents get out.  Sometimes I think, "What will we do for fun tonight?"  No worries.  Playing outside, dinner or a snack, taking a walk or a ride in her 'whatever it is thingie she sits in while you push with one handle'.  Some play inside with Grandfather amusing her as only he can and then clean up and PJ's.  When Kevin walks in she jumps up and down and giggles like, "Ha!  See where I've been!".  

I'll try not to bombard you with pictures of her but it's hard.  I don't take a lot, but Emily has her all day on Thursdays and gets some great shots.  

And speaking of the Mother To Be, she is more than halfway along in her pregnancy.  She continues to work and do more than she should.  She's always been a busy bee and very driven.  But I'm grateful she's taking some naps and really watching certain food that are 'new to me' harmful.  Sometimes she can be outright paranoid.  For example, we had lunch at a restaurant recently and the conversation sort of went:

Emily:  "Does your water taste funny?"
Me:  "Not at all"
Emily:  "My Coke tastes weird, too."
Me:  "Okay."
Emily:  "I'm just going to drink my water."
Me:  "Fine."
Emily:  "Do you want to use my hand sanitizer?"
Me:  "No, why?"
Emily:  Well, you know...you are touching things on the table and then you'll get in my car."

Finally.  On the way home.  The killer.

Emily:  "Mom. You keep scratching your head.  Can you please stop?"
Me:  "Why?  Does it bother you?"
Emily:  Well, yeah.  I don't want dead skin follicles all over my car."

Someone please trade places with me.  ;-(



I made fish and chips for dinner the other night.  I love fish and know that it's healthy.  Fried food is not so healthy but I figure the good~for~you fish might cancel out the bad grease.  Sort of like ordering a diet pop with french fries.  People laugh at that but I think it's a great balance.  A win~win.

So...save it for one of those days when you want something greasy and salty.  Be prepared to spend about an hour cleaning up your stovetop afterward.  ;-D

Jane's Fish & Chips

1 to 1 1/2 lb. fresh cod
I egg swished around with a whisk or fork

1 1/2 t baking soda
2 c flour
2 t salt and pepper

1 to 1 1/2 c canola oil
2 T malt vinegar (optional)

Cut pieces of cod into 4 pieces.  Mix together flour mixture while you heat up the oil and vinegar in a deep pan over medium to high heat.  Dip the fish in the egg and dredge in the flour mixture.  Fry approximately 2 minutes on each side.  Do not let them over~brown.  Keep the thinner pieces of cod toward the sides of the pan.  Remove to a plate and cover with foil until ready to serve.  

My simple tartar sauce is a mixture of mayo, pickle relish and a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.  Play and taste...so fun.

For the chips I cut 4 medium size Idaho potatoes (after washing them) into 1/4 inch slices.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and brush the potatoes with a bit of canola oil...Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt (add a bit more after cooking).  Bake at 425 for approximately 20 minutes until tender, but watch closely.  

Recipe serves 4.  Enjoy!!!!



Okay..drumroll!  The winner of this book is Mary Alice at Chateau Chic.  I appreciate so many of you who expressed interest in this book...I'm still plowing away at this one and the prequel.  Good reading  It's okay to read more than one book at a time, right?  Mary Alice, congrats and please email your address.

I'm up to my ears in things I need to do this week.  We leave for Asheville for 9 days this Saturday.  I'm going 500 miles away but acting like I'm going to Bora Bora.  We have a washer and dryer at the condo but I pack as if I need 8 outfits a day.  I would like to get a pedicure and perhaps a new dress or pair of sandals but we'll see.  Longtime followers know how neurotic I can be when I take a trip.  I'm also working on Emily's baby shower along with her mother in law.  And the countdown to getting back into the lakehouse seems to be just around the corner so I'm running around like crazy looking for drapes and bedding and linens for which the insurance company will later reimburse us.  I haven't been there in 12 months...The Husband goes (he doesn't mind a port-a-potty and a sandwich from a gas station), and I can see from his cell phone photos that I have cabinets, a pretty floor, a beautiful staircase and a shiplap ceiling in the kitchen.  Joanna Gaines would be proud.  Seriously, can't wait to share this.

I am done with physical therapy but I had an episode with my back going totally awry a few weeks ago.  Seriously bad.  I had an MRI and it was beyond having a 'bad back', as I've called it for the past few years.  5 bulging disks and severe nerve root problems around two lower vertebra.  For the wise and medical/insurance people I know...this is it.  The bad and ugly.  I know the PT routine and now do it at home.  My physician provides great incentive for me, I really like and respect him.  Do the exercises, get to a gym and drop the weight.  The ball is in my court or he will be fusing my spine together with metal screws in a year.  I'm definitely moving on that.  What a guy.  He never made me feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.  How can you feel offended when a doctor straight out tells you that you are young and your health is in your own hands?  Wish me luck.   

We leave Saturday and I'll bring my laptop.  I usually have a little time here and there when The Husband goes trout fishing or to this falconry place he found to risk have his nose bitten off by a real hawk landing on his arm.  The bait is a hunk a raw meat.  I've heard the expression that you can't 'unsee what you've seen'.  In this case I can't 'unsee' something gross that's best left to avid viewers of the National Geographic channel.  Facing your fears is something that's very big these days~some of them might even be on your 'Bucket List".  Mine include trying ice cream with peanut butter in it, and using a gas station restroom.  

Off I go.  I'll report from beautiful Asheville, North Carolina in a few days.  

Jane x 

  

Friday, July 8, 2016

LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE & A GIVEAWAY!


Happy Weekend!  I've been trying and trying to sit down and write but it escapes me.  I'm still having these pesky old (and I mean old age) medical problems and I feel I'm coming and going to and from clinics to the point where its just routine.  Milo and Layla think I have a job, they barely glance up from their favorite chairs when I slide into my flip flops and race out the door every afternoon.  Same routine, light therapy Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and physical therapy Tuesday and Thursday.  Lots of bumps in the road with that but let's start off the post positively.  ;-D

With all the rain we've had the grass is brilliant green and my hedges have had to be trimmed twice in the past 6 weeks.  But we've also had many super hot days in the high 80's and 90's and it's miserable to step outside sometimes.  With fluctuating temps there has been a lot of severe weather.  A few weeks ago several tornado's touched down west of us.  Three nights ago I woke up in the middle of the night for a drink of water and as I looked out the kitchen window the rain was pounding the streets and the trees were blowing like crazy.  At the same time there was thunder and  lightening was flashing every few seconds.  I hadn't heard it over the air conditioning and standing fan (in spite of scary winds we still love to sleep in a hurricane environment). Always ready for a catastrophe, I gathered my candles, matches and flashlight.  We were good but I did lose a good 2 hours of sleep.  I know many of you are dealing with Mother Nature's fury.  Be ready.  Hold tight.  Wake your hubby every 5 minutes after those alerts on your eighteen weather apps.  I do that.



From the little I know about ornamental grass, I'm thinking this is ornamental grass.  I think a special little bird dropped seeds in my Woodland Garden.  I think it looks like wheat with a pinkish tinge.  I think it needs a name.  It's a little random among the lilies and columbine.  I'd love to get more to create some bigger clumps.  I think I need help.  Please?



Love these Asiatic lilies.  I used to grow them and once my yard became shadier it didn't work out.  They make for a pretty arrangement indoors but I have to say the smell a bit too strong for me.  I recently spread a store bought bouquet amongst three vases the kitchen, dining area and living room.  Everyone wanted to know what the odor was (odor~~not scent).  I do have some yellow, red and pink lilies popping up so soon I can cut a few of those and not insult any visitors.  Gee, maybe Yankee Candles can try to copy this scent with something called Afternoon Funeral.



So we go back and forth outdoors, me and the hounds, pulling a few weeds in the cool morning when the grass is still damp and the humidity hasn't settled in.  In the late afternoon I sit on the patio with my latest book and they lay in the grass with their ears and noses twitching.  With the weather being so wonky we've had very few al fresco meals.  I did have Emily and Mike over for dinner last week and it it just happened to be a PERFECT night.  I set up the candles and napkins and glasses ahead of time and once we filled our plates we headed out.  It was gorgeous.  I wish I had my head on a little straighter and thought to invite the kids over more for dinner or even a Sunday brunch.  As it is now, summer keeps us spread out even further.  I spoiled Emily and Mike with sautéed sea scallops, prosciutto wrapped asparagus bundles, and wild rice with peas and carrots.  Sounds fancy but truly very easy and quick.  And anything and everything tastes perfect outside as the sun sets.

We have to grab these moments when we can, and frankly, as I run around like a chicken with my head cut off, I've started to care less and less about fluffing the house, rotating things around from spring to summer and organizing way too many objects on my counters.  Now let me say, I will never lose my love for nesting and creating a a home where family and friends are welcome and comfortable.  I have enough cr*p in my arsenal downstairs to change up shelves and tables and mantels for years to come.  But I run short of time (and steam).  There will be time, a better time when I'm not running around like a whirling dervish and I'll fiddle and fuss, but for now, this new mantelscape is brought to you by a harried woman hobbling downstairs to do some laundry and finding she can balance a few summery pieces on the pile of warm towels.  Voila!

May I mention that the Hallmark Movie Channel is featuring movies under the theme of 'Christmas in July'.  Oh, yeah.  I'm eating it up.  As much as I love those movies in November and December, I'm spread pretty thin then so it's great to catch a few I missed.  :D


That cute little Elsie is with us every Thursday night and we love having her.  She is really infatuated with Grandfather (The Husband).  I wonder about that...is it that he looks like Kevin?  His voice?  Maybe he's just more charming than me...gulp.  Our time flies.  Since we both love to be outside we play in the backyard for a bit and then she wears me out walking around the block...more than once.  Of course she's on her little push contraption a lot (see how lame I am with the new generation of baby things?!!).  Some nights we have not so great weather and we do what we can in the house.  I've often said we live in a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle house.  Rather than it being upside down it just twists and turns with a series of halls and rooms off each one.  Elsie is very intrigued by this.  She also gets distracted by our pet vulture...er, parrot.  She understands she can't go near the cage, Nina is a biter.  Elsie still loves when she chirps,  tries to make conversation and flaps her wings like a show off.  We keep the creature tucked away in the guest room and can close the door.  We keep a lot of the doors closed as you wind through Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's house and Elsie is that age where when she wants something she lets us know!  Bang, bang, bang on the doors!  I had so many kids close in age that they all kept each other amused.  This is new and so much fun.  



I'm off now.  We are getting up early to take a drive up to the lake.  We are just a few weeks off from completion.  Floors in, new appliances in, my kitchen shiplap ceiling is up.  We have a new staircase with wrought iron spindles.  I understand we are just waiting for some details like light fixtures, trim, and paint.  

Our Summerhouse (guest house) has been closed up since the fall of 2014 (the damage occurred in March, 2015).  I'm bringing a bucket and cleaning supplies and opening up all the windows and cleaning the heck out of that place.  It was my sanctuary.  It's the most I can do right now.  The Husband wants to trim, fertilize and water the boxwood hedges, those are his babies.  I'll do my best to weed the garden beds.  With my whacko back I doubt we will be able to move out any of the patio furniture.  I don't even know if the marina delivered our boat in the spring.  It's just been a chaotic juggling game.  Such a balancing game of so much happening in our lives.

I am having a giveaway.  If you think about the last two I've had it's usually because I've ended up with two of something or something I just didn't need and someone would benefit from.  Vicki from Life In My Empty Nest recommended this book and its prequel Lunch in Paris.  Somehow I received two of this one and strangely, this copy came from Germany with no info on how to return it!  So it's up for grabs.  I suggest you read the reviews here at Amazon and decide if its your cup of tea.  I love a memoir, France and recipes in a book.  These books have me fascinated and I'm switching back and forth between the two.  Thanks, Vicki.  The giveaway is only open until my next post.  Just leave a comment that you are in.  I have a much needed trip to the post office and if you can imagine the posts offices in a huge city...well, you avoid them!!

Happy Weekend!

Jane x

***Oh!  One final thing...I am so, so tired I am not re-reading this for grammatical errors.  Please have mercy! :-D

Tahnsk, Jnea!



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A SHORT TOUR OF THE PATIO AND GARDEN & A DELICIOUS SIDE DISH RECIPE


Hello, friends.  I hope all of you are off to a great week.  Our high temps are cooling off as we speak but a nice breeze has been so great in keeping us cool and making being outdoors tolerable with 90+ degrees.

Taking a walk around the Ponderosa today I had my camera in hand while I randomly watered some pots of flowers.  I've seen these little herb boxes on many blogs, I have had the set for quite a while; Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.  This summer they are all up on the brick around my patio.  There are so many things you can do with these boxes.  So this is one.  I'll share the others later.  The Husband constantly harps that our house is going to crumble down if I hammer in one more masonry nail. 



Thought I'd zoom in on a few things.  This basket holds a mismatch of outdoor essentials.  I love these colorful citronella candles found at Marshall's.  I try to use citronella as opposed to an air spray or bug repellent applied to the skin.  If I do use a body spray I try to find the gentlest.  Right now I'm using Cutter Skinsations (no promotional deal going here).  It has Aloe and Vitamin E.  The key I believe is to wash it off once you head in.  Many find these repellents to be unsafe but I prefer to lean toward the lesser of the evils and West Nile Virus is something I never want to have.  


I have some Asiatic lilies blooming near my herbs.  Gosh, they really make me smile.  They look like they are virtually painted in watercolors.  You can see there are many more buds to open. 



As you know, I LOVE my chairs.  In fact I am really looking forward to getting up to the lakehouse just to hunt down more.  This wrought iron chair holds a special place in my heart.  A few years after we moved here we literally had some strangers show up at the door and tell us they were the children of the original owners.  We were as excited as they were.  All they really wanted to see was the backyard where they had so many fun memories.  One of the things I could never part with when we moved in was this lone chair (and it only has three legs).  I kept it propped up in a corner of what I call my Woodland Garden.  The two daughters saw it and nearly cried while remembering the matching table and second chair, a bistro set I imagine.   So I keep it, adorn it every spring and love it. 


The latest in Blondieville.  Son Kevin turned thirty~three on Friday.  We went to dinner at a favorite steakhouse nearby.  Most of the kids had Friday night plans but Kevin, Mary Clare, her mother, Peggy (my partner in crime) and The Husband had a great time.  This is the cutest picture of Kevin and MC.  They had a sitter for Elsie so I hope they painted the town red later on!


We spent a glorious weekend with long time friends Zeke and Jill at their new home on a lake southwest of us.  They bought it to use for weekends and then took the plunge last year to move in full time.  They had retired but after several months of contemplating this new chapter of their lives they decided to take part time jobs.  Jill has forty some years as a nurse under her belt   Going from working in a hospital to a medical clinic has had its challenges but she takes it in stride.  I truly admire how she takes the bull by the horns but is also very honest and humble at the same time.  I could stand to learn a lot from her.  I hope we see these friends more in the future, we lost touch as raising kids took precedence over most thngs and it's so good to reconnect.  

We spent much of the weekend cruising on their pontoon with a few other friends, sharing great meals cooked on the grill by the menfolk, wiling away the time on the deck.  Jill took me for a ride around the lake by car.  It's a heavily wooded area and we saw groups of deer munching the vegetation along the road.  They would stare at us for a second and then bound into the woods.  This was awesome for me as I've only seen a handful of them in my entire life and then only from a distance.  All in all, this was just the remedy for The Husband and I who continue to miss our lake life tremendously.



Daughter Abigail finally finished up teaching last week. Amazing how some schools go so long.  Her guy Tom also finished up so they have a whole 6 weeks of fun together.  They have so many cool things to do near their apartment on the Northside but they also love to come down here (the Southside) to enjoy the pool at Tom's family's home a few blocks away.  Abby loves being outside as they live on the third floor of their building without a balcony, and she also spends a lot of time with Milo and Layla, she misses them so.  To think she was just thirteen when we got Milo, it really is a special relationship.  This is a picture of her playing with Layla on the back steps but I also wanted to sneak in a picture of those outdoor lights I bought at Target last fall on clearance.  We had more than we needed and so we hung them in a swag pattern.  I love them along with the solar lights I have here and there in my garden borders around the patio.  At night I really have no use for the porch light or spot lights, thus, fewer bugs.  We do have the 'flight of the bats' around dusk.  They swoop and dive for about 5 minutes eating up the flying bugs.  I used to enjoy watching them from the safety of my patio table under the umbrella until one decided to fly under and whizzed inches from my head.  Now when I sight the first few I make a hasty exit to the house.  ;-(



The bed along the house is doing great.  The pink clematis have died off for now but will be back.  I wish I had the names of the varieties.  The purple ones are doing well.  I have bunches of cosmos planted here and there to fill up space.  In a few weeks I'll hit some garden centers to find perennials on sale to add and fill in spaces.  Still, I may continue to add cosmos every year...I simply love them and their fluffy leaves and how they sway in the wind.  



I know, this looks like one full plate and it is, The Husbands at dinner tonight.  But trust me, this is just one simple recipe that I wanted to pass on and it is for the Parsley Glazed Carrots.  I came across the recipe around Easter, we all loved it and then tonight I wanted to make it again and had to pull the ingredients out of my head.  

I cook fresh veggies every single night.  It sounds time consuming but you can easily do it while you are at the stove working on the other parts of your meal.  The only veggies I don't prepare are peas (I get them frozen).  I don't have the patience to shuck them.  I think that jazzing up your veggies makes them more tasty and you tend to add more to your plate, a great trick to get those nutrients.  And oh, I got to use some fresh parsley I have growing in abundance!  So, very simply:

Parsley Glazed Carrots

4 cups carrots (sliced in half and then cut lengthwise very thinly into long spears)
S & P to taste
1/2 t sugar
1/4 cup water
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T butter
2 T fresh parsley, chopped

*******

Add all ingredients except the butter and parsley to a sauce pan or skillet with a tightly fitted lid and cook over moderately high heat for approximately 7-10 minutes.  Toss frequently in the last 3 minutest prevent burning.  Remove from heat when they are lightly charred and tender.  Toss with the butter and sprinkle with parsley.  Serves 4-6.

The beauty of this recipe is that the small amount of sugar caramelizes the carrots, and the bit of charring makes for a crispness and earthiness that is softened by the butter.  I hope you try this as a side dish.  It really is delicious.



After our mini vacation at the home of our friends, the dogs were more than happy to see us.  Arriving home at 8:00 p.m. Sunday night we had just enough time to enjoy the last of the sun and play a little fetch with the rubber ball that Milo has yet to chew into shreds.  He tires a little more quickly but I still try to keep him active and in shape.  Isn't that what we are all supposed to do?  And then he is content to lie in the grass and sniff the warm summer breeze.  My favorite memories will always be the outdoor ones.  My dogs are always happiest there and I simply can't wait to get back to the lake and see them run wild.  And that's coming soon.  More on it later!

Have a wonderful 4th!  Celebrate and sparkle!

Jane x

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

THE LITTLE THINGS


I usually find inspiration to write a post by looking at my photos and seeing a little pattern of what I've been up to, places I've been and sometimes things I think you guys may be interested in.  The other day I thought, man, it's been awhile since I wrote a post but there doesn't seem to be anything to write about.   Then today I thought of a quote that says something to the effect of looking back on your life and realizing it wasn't the big things, it was the little things that counted.  I love that and I thought maybe that's the nudge I need to sit down and just start typing.  

Well, isn't this an interesting photo?  That Milo can be like a bloodhound sometimes.  I have a few outdoor toys for Elsie, we love to play in the backyard.  Milo actually gets into the action by retrieving  a ball when we throw it and dropping it in front of Elsie.  She runs to me or The Husband with it and we repeat.  I don't think she knew that dogs could play like this.  She's also taken a liking to dropping food down for Milo and Layla and they all get a huge kick out of this.  Anyway, Milo knows the smell of rubber.  And he loves to chew it.  We had to stop giving him rubber toys long ago and now we have to keep an eye on Elsie's favorite toys.  So...I caught him doing this the other day, just wanting that rubber ball with a passion.  Crazy mutt.  


This is a little old bench I painted a few weeks ago to fill in a corner of the patio (you can see it in the picture above).  Nothing huge, I just wanted it to be a bright spot.  I kept the legs the original color as it's almost too bright.  I've toned down the bright colors on my patio.  I may just give this a little darker wash.  My garden tools hang on a rack above the bench.  I've heard that it's a good idea to paint the wood handles of your tools a bright color, it makes them easier to find if you lay them down in the grass. Good tip and maybe my tools won't blend in so much with the wall.   I may do this.  


My day lilies are starting to bloom.  I have them in a lot of different spots all over my yard.  It's so big and sometimes I just want to fill areas with tried and true plants that take up chunks of space.  I have yellow and pink varieties in another area~~~I really favor them.  They bloom later in the summer, most likely as they don't get as much sun until mid summer.  



This is my idea of perfect whimsy, Jane Style.  This little chair used to be in one of our more 'natural and shabby" bathrooms so it looks pretty good.  I'm looking forward to seeing it get a little distressed over time.  



The Husband and I are so happy to have Elsie every Thursday night when Kevin plays softball and Mary Clare plays volleyball.  We love it.  She's just in time to have dinner with us.  She can't really chew food but it's so fun to watch her try new things that she can.  She was really intrigued by the jello I made last week.  She didn't know whether to play with it or eat it.

We like to take little walks, she pushes her baby doll in a mini stroller.  I can't help but think that these are the same sidewalks on which I walked with her dad (and the rest of my brood) to kindergarten.  Full circle and another great reason to be happy we've lived in this home for so long.  Forever actually or so it seems. 


I feel like summer has been here for a long, long time.  The things I've accomplished in the yard and garden, the time I've spent outdoors simply started so early that it truly feels like mid summer.  We've  have had a major heat wave, some days have actually hit 90+ degrees and that's very unusual for this part of the country in early summer.  Today was hot and humid but I was determined to get those pups out and active for an hour.  Layla loves grass...in the early morning she goes out and finds a patch of sun and just lies in it.  The other day she was lying on her side snoozing peacefully and she looked almost dead.  My heart almost stopped, then she lifted her head and looked around, and immediately went back to sleep.  For her there's nothing better than sniffing a random spot, scratching at it (a bug?) and then rolling in it.   I caught her in the act this afternoon and luckily had my camera with me.  A video would have been better, she can be hysterically funny.  Another crazy mutt.  They keep me happy and busy.

I'm beyond complaining about my daily running around.  I call my afternoons my 'Doctor Dates'.  I do the physical therapy on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the light therapy for my rash Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Afterward I do the groceries or errands.  By the time I get home its time to start dinner and after that I can barely keep my eyes open.  I am liking the PT though.  Spending an hour stretching muscles you never knew existed is quite exhilarating, for lack of a better word (after the first initial days of pain!).  It makes me look forward to doing the exercises at home and I've been pretty good about that.     

We have some fun things coming up.  We have plans to spend a weekend with old friends at their new home on a lake about 2 hours from here.  Oh!  To wade in the water, eat hotdogs and have a beer at 1:00 p.m.  Ha!  Life's little pleasures.  And we are going to our place in Asheville the last week of July.  My sister in law and her young daughters took a road trip recently and stayed several nights at our condo.  They had a ball.  They loved the pool, I've never been as we haven't been there in the summer.  I know The Husband will want to do some fly fishing so I'm looking forward to whiling away some time by the pool and in the hot tub and plowing through some books I have sitting on my night table.  

That wraps it up.  Do tell what you've been been doing so far this summer.  Any vacation plans?  As I write I hear we are having some terrible storms down in Texas and some are headed our way.  It's hard to be vigilant at night.  Be safe. 

And in closing I want to express my sorrow over the events in Orlando.  I'm sure you share my feelings.  Let's continue to pray for peace while we grieve for the victims and their families.  

Jane x



Sunday, June 5, 2016

GREEN LIVING


All of the pictures in this post are of the outdoors and at the risk of sounding like a braggart, they may all be of my progress in the gardens and on my patio.  Yawn.  

The clematis is blooming like crazy.  I think it looks so pretty close up but in reality, I simply don't know how or when to prune back the woody stems so this is all you are getting now.  They thrive on this black trellis which some of you may know was actually a wrought iron headboard Emily and I scavenged from a neighbors trash.  I digress.  On one side of the trellis I have a variety that blooms purple and I think it's very common, I see it everywhere.  The cool thing is both the pink and purple varieties bloom all summer long.  For not knowing what I'm doing, I'm doing alright! 



I mentioned I had ordered some urns from Amazon.  None of them were over $30.00.  I am so pleased with them.  Each one is made of different material but all are lightweight, even with your potting soil inside so you can move them around until you're happy.  This is one of my favorites.  I love impatiens because I have so much shade (they dry out in direct sun) and I'm partial to that pretty peachy color.  This is a sweet combo of color and in another 2 weeks they will be billowing over the edges of the pot.



We have a lot of 'not so expected/invited critters' in our yard right now so I stand on my back porch a lot when I let Layla and Milo out, especially at night.  We have a family of opossum living in a cardboard box (of all things) in little alcove that leads to our garage.  It was hidden under some heavier things over the winter.  The husband was attempting to take a bit at a time out to the trash and last week that protective mother reared her ugly head.  Okay...have your way.  Raise those babies up to be cowboys for all we care.  But I digress.  No I don't.  I have a raccoon family under my shed and we've spotted foxes strolling down the street like nobodies business.  Life in the city.  But still, I digress.  This is my lookout tower on my back porch and if you peer down to the right you get a bird's eye view of the herb garden.  I forgot to get dill!  Can you believe it?  I must have brought some milkweed seeds home with me a few years ago from the lake because it's sprouting all over and I have these beautiful monarchs as well as some blue swallowtail.  And then I realize---no dill.  I had such a great time seeing the caterpillars munching away on my plants last summer.  So I'm off this week for some.  Forget using it in my recipes...I just want to see those beautiful (if not a little creepy) caterpillars. 

On a sad note, I had a birdhouse close to the house and just off our patio.  I had so much fun watching the two sparrows make a little home in it.  The Husband could hear the chirping of the babies last week (I couldn't).  And then two days ago I was cleaning up outside and I found a little featherless baby.  I buried it quickly.  The next morning I found another and before I could get my garden gloves on I noticed it was still breathing.  I broke my cardinal rule and climbed on a patio chair to get it back into the birdhouse.  Later in the afternoon I found another and had to bury it.  By then I hadn't seen the parents for awhile.  It saddens me.  I blame myself for having the birdhouse so close to the patio where they would be disturbed.  I'm moving it away to some mulberry bushes that are quite tall.  I thought I had learned my lesson when it came to manipulating nature for my own benefit.  I have a few stories I can tell...but the moral is, leave all of it alone.



I used to plant tomatoes in this humongous pot but they never made it with the squirrels and their daily volleyball matches with my just ripened babies.  Or they'd take one bite and spit it out like a spoiled child.  Back in March I planted spinach, butter lettuce and baby carrots.  I've already made a few delicious salads.  A nice trick I learned from a fellow gardener at the lake, don't pull the whole plant out.  Hold a few very gently at the tips and use a serrated knife to do a sort of 'crew cut'.  The plants will grow again and you'll get a second harvest.  We've had great salads and sandwiches and BLT's.  The little carrots are dwarfed by the lettuce.  Maybe next year I'll give them their own planter.  These may do well when I use up most of the other greens.  Am I boring you?



I finally got the patio tidy and clean.  I wish I had been patient enough to power wash it but I have to say, its seventy years old and has cracks like an earthquake hit it.  I make do with a cute rug and plants to distract. Recently I found an indoor/outdoor rug at Home Depot for a terrific price.  I had some mildew or mold on my last rug and I know I might have removed it but I never liked the bright lime green color.  I had really toned down some of the bright colors everywhere.  I had been one dime short of a few colorful gnomes from Walgreens.  Nothing else is very new.  I had these place mats which were pretty beat up (and I hope the birds don't find them perfectly satisfactory for nest building after my recent tragedy), and I also found some old pillows I can hide away.  I just tuck them in a corner when I know we have rain coming.  I'm so loving my retreat.  Afternoons puttering and pulling weeds, reading around 4:00 p.m. before the sun moves far enough west to start to blind me and then one last hurrah for the dogs about 8 p.m.  Heavenly.




I won't take much of your time with this recipe.  It's just one part of a salad that I found here.  I've never made the whole deal but I'm sure it's delicious.  I was curious about the shrimp and marinade and I just happened to have a pound of nice sized shrimp in the freezer.  I served it over thin Thai noodles (my new love) but it would be great along side rice or pasta tossed with your favorite sauce.  Keep it light to compliment the tanginess and spice of the shrimp.  I took the liberty of giving it my own name.

Spicy Marinated Shrimp

1/2 to 1 lb jumbo shrimp
1/3 c packed cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 c fresh lime juice (2-3 limes)
1/4 c olive oil
1 T honey
1/2 t chili powder
canola oil for cooking
S & P

Blend all of the ingredients except the shrimp in a food processor.  Place the shrimp in a large zip lock bag and pour the marinade over.  Place in refrigerator for no longer than 10 minutes or the shrimp will actually 'cook' in the acidic ingredients.  

Heat 1 T canola oil in a skillet or grill pan.  You can also do this on an outdoor grill.  Place each piece on and grill 1 minute on each side until lightly charred.  

As I've said, you can serve this in so many ways.  I am looking forward to having this as an appetizer for company over a bed of lettuce, it's great at room temp.  Something cool to counteract the spiciness would be a yogurt dip with cucumber slices or tortillas and a salsa verde.

This comes together very fast if you peel and devein the shrimp ahead of time.  I do this unpleasant task because I save big $$$.  In any case~~~you will love it and get great rave reviews if you serve it to company.  :-D



The Husband has been making periodic trips to the lake to see what the crew is up to and meet with the contractor.  Things are moving along well.  I need to get an email out to the contractor and carpenter as to the details on the kitchen I've planned as well as the powder room. 

In the meantime, The Husband took pictures of my monster wisteria which I haven't seen in full bloom for 2 years.  You can look on my sidebar at the front view of the lakhouse to see how it grows up the left side of the house from the front  porch to the upper balcony which is off the master bedroom.   Above is a view from the bedroom.  It has flowed over the balcony and God knows where it wants to go after this!  I have to make some sort of trellis to get it to go up to the slatted arbor as you can see.



Another view.  Look at those blooms (in spite of a poor pic..though I know the guy tried).  I think maybe now my neighbors know what the heck I had growing up my house.  Even The Husband, who absolutely hates the ivy I've grown all over our little city house here is loving this.  I have a young guy who cuts our lawn in the summer.  I had asked him for an estimate to trim the wisteria.  I usually do it every spring myself.  He texted back the day after I saw these pictures and said, "Mrs. B.  This vine is so beautiful.  I would leave it alone for a few months!"  He's so cute.  I've waited 10 years to see this and now I'm not there!!!!!  But we have just a few weeks left.    Unpacking will consume most of our time but I have to get some work done on the gardens.  As far as the wisteria...you just go girl!

See ya soon.

Jane  x

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

CAN WE RELAX YET?


I can't believe we are almost into June.  I'm really happy to say that in spite of the fluctuations in temperatures and the amount of rain we've been having, I've been able to make progress in my yard and garden beds.  My darn back has made it a little difficult and I'm sure I'm doing a lot of lifting and bending in the absolute most wrong way.  Although I'm not looking forward to physical therapy, I think there's a lot to learn and I'm pretty grateful for that.  

I did my 'not so fun' work first; Pulling weeds, reseeding, mulching and general clean up.  I really wanted to put some of my fun decorative pieces out on the patio but I was potting there and it was a mess. Finally I moved everything out to the picnic table and spiffed up the deck and my baker's rack.  The Husband and I bought this monster at Nordstrom's Rack about 15 years ago when we both worked in downtown Chicago.  We threw caution to the wind and parked in the alley where we pushed and shoved and maneuvered it into the back of his Aviator.  I never thought it would fit but he's an optimist.  It used to be pale green but its seen better days.  Someday I may paint it.  Or not.  I found the little cabinet next to it at a second hand shop years ago.  My late sister, Leslie, helped me paint it.  My first project like that.  Anyway, I had fun playing.  The only new thing I have on here is the little plant on the top shelf and the green pails on the second.  I don't know what on earth I can do with those...any ideas?  Or just leave things alone? ;-D

We have a 3 foot roof overhang in this corner where the patio is tucked into.  Sometimes its a nemesis, especially around the corner where I have a long garden bed.  It doesn't get the rain so I have to water it.  But here, along the patio, my baker's rack stays dry.  

I've been longing for lights along the house in this area and last year my SIL called me when Target had a clearance on the ones she has that I LOVE.  I got 3 twenty inch strands for $7.98 each.  Ladies, wait for those end of season sales!  I'll try to get a good shot soon.  



Little Layla loves exploring anything new, like the mulch.  She also lounges in the sun in my herb garden, smashing my baby plants. Good old Milo loves a warm patch where I have newly planted grass seed.  In this picture you can see the German Ivy which is pretty much a ground cover.  I covered a lot with the mulch but it will snake its way back up.



When I was in Vancouver a few weeks back, I was really loving the salads that were not so average.  I really adore my veggies but I'm always looking for ways to jazz them up and make them anything but boring.  On the afternoon I ventured out alone to shop I had lunch in a restaurant called Cactus Cafe.  I ordered a salad very much like this one and I wrote a list of the ingredients as I ate.  I came home and naturally didn't get around to making it for awhile.  Finally I did last week and followed up with another version a few days later.  

The salad is surprisingly simple and the beauty is that you can switch out the protein (meat) or skip it all together.  Veggies can be substituted depending on what you have on hand.  The key is to have all of the ingredients at room temperature except for the dressing.  Anything hot will wilt the lettuce and you will have a mish mash.

Chicken Quinoa & Veggie Salad

*****
1)  2 c cooked and shredded chicken breast
2 cups of mixed lettuce or baby greens

2)  1 1/2 c cooked quinoa
1 t olive oil
1 t melted butter

3)  1 T olive oil
 3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 T capers
1/4 c almond slivers
1/4 c roughly chopped red pepper

1 c English cucumbers, sliced
1/2 c feta cheese

Place the vinaigrette in a large bowl and top with lettuce.  Do not toss until ready to serve.  In a small skillet, gently heat up the olive oil and add the garlic cloves, capers, almonds and peppers until barely softened.  Remove from heat.

Toss salad and arrange 1/2 the lettuce mixture on a portion of a plate, then top with 1/2 of the  chicken.  Sprinkle almond topping over and garnish plate with cucumber and feta.  Add a pinch of S & P. 







Salad with Sirloin Slices, Rice Noodles and Fresh Veggies

*****

This salad is much the same except I substituted beef strips which I cooked in vegetable oil over very high heat just to sear.  After removing them from the pan I wiped it clean, added a tad of butter and added 2 medium carrots, chopped fine, 3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine and 1 small shallot, peeled and chopped roughly along with a scattering of slivered almonds.  The salad was tossed with a store bought Poppy Seed dressing (I use Marie's).  Thai rice noodles cook up quickly and after draining and cooling, I jazzed them up with a variety of spices and a splash of olive oil.  

Dress your plate as in the recipe above.  Arrange raw zucchini slices and roughly chopped red pepper all around.  Sprinkle S & P over to taste.  

Both of these salads serve 2.




I've only made it reading through the first chapter of this book, Cravings, which consisted of the most decadent breakfast recipes ever.  The bad thing about being an avid cookbook reader is that you get veeeeeeery hungry.  I'm wanting to make every recipe I see, from the Spicy Tomato  Skillet Eggs with Prosciutto to the Dutch Baby Pancakes.  Each recipe begins with a few comments and Chrissy Teigen is seriously down to earth, honest and funny.  How she keeps her body looking so great when she cooks like this is a mystery to me but she is enthusiastic about full on flavor, and makes no apologies for the 'comfort food factor' in so many of her recipes.  I also like that the dishes aren't really complicated nor do they have ingredients that you have to go to Dean & Deluca in NYC for.  The pictures are simply gorgeous as well.  As soon as I choose a few breakfast recipes and have the ingredients on hand, I'll share.  


Emily watches Elsie on Thursdays and last week we got together and went to our favorite plant nursery.  You have all 'been there' with me seasonally for my flowers, pumpkins and Christmas trees. We had a really great time.  I could see Elsie's eyes taking in all the pretty colors and she loves to gaze into people's faces.  She really makes everyone smile.  

As we walked around I mentally put together my pots and selected plants.  Emily seemed to be in a daze.  That's not like her, she always has a plan.  Always.  I asked her what was wrong.  "I'm overwhelmed, mom.  I just can't think."  I believe her.  She's in over her head with work and then meeting clients in her free time.  Trying to continue with the yard work and designing the baby's room.  I told her to go get a cart of her own and I would take care of Elsie.  We poked around inside and out of the shop and after about  fifteen minutes I ran into Emily and her overflowing cart.  It didn't take long for her to get her mojo back! 


2 days ago Emily had another ultrasound and at sixteen weeks the doctor was pretty sure he could tell the sex of the baby.  Emily and Mike wanted to have a gender reveal party but unlike Kevin and MC, where the results were called in to a bakery and the cake had a tinted filling (pink or blue), they opted instead for finding out the gender right then and there, having the party and surprising all of us, family and friends with a box filled with helium balloons (pink or blue).  I believe that was the biggest run~on sentence in the history of run~on sentences.  Sorry.  I couldn't believe she was going to keep me in the dark as well.  My daughter!  The one I carried for 9 months, gave birth to without an epidural, who cried herself silly for 8 straight weeks until she figured out what her thumb was for.  So I made these cupcakes for dessert.  Grrrrr...talk about loyalty.


****Ta~Dah****

I was astounded when I saw the pink balloons fly out of the box and sail away into the evening.  I really thought it was going to be a boy.  I'm not sure why.  I'm so, so grateful that this time has arrived for Emily and Mike and a grandson would be awesome.  I have a special bond with my daughters and since Emily, my firstborn, told me she was pregnant it has taken me back time and time again to that magical moment when the doctor told me, "You're going to be a mother!"  I remember everything after that moment vividly; a cool fall day, getting in my car and driving across the bridge to my hometown almost in a daze,  straight to my own mother's house.  A passing of the torch then and now.  

One thing I do have to watch is how often and long winded I reminisce about those days.  Giving advice and opinions.  I had no one to help me physically but my mom and sisters were a phone call away.  That was perfect.  It can be so irritating to hear people talk about how things were back in ''their day'.  I just don't want to be that person.  If my kids need my help they can ask. 

So these are very exciting days.  And definitely filled to the brim.  I have my little health issues but there is no room for slowing down.  I try to schedule appointments and run errands in the afternoon so I can write and look at emails in the morning.  When I really have time I have to unsubscribe to a few dozen of these websites.  In the evening I try to work on visiting blogs.  

We are hitting the home stretch at the lakehouse but I still couldn't venture to say when it will be finished.  I get a very uneasy feeling when I think of that moving van coming back with all of our belongings.  Will everything be in good shape?  What should I keep or give away?  How long will it take to unpack and rearrange?  What will we have to replace?  I was talking to my sister in law at Emily's party and she asked if we needed help.  I wanted to cry.  I simply haven't wanted to ask for help because people have so much going on in the summer as it is.  I've often thought as well, don't ask family for help, they will say yes because they feel obligated.  I don't want to do that to anyone.  

Well, I have some flowers to plant in the front yard and it looks like it's going to rain so I'm heading out.  Abby and her boyfriend Tom are going on a short vacation to San Diego tomorrow so she's coming here tonight and we are treating ourselves to a pedicure.  Man, if you could see my heels!

Hope you're having a great week!!!

Jane x