Tuesday, August 12, 2014

THE CALL OF THE WILD








So here's Layla hanging out on the swing.  It's a shame that I have to keep her on a line.  She has access to the garden where she likes to sleep in the sun or eat bugs, and then she can move on to the patio in the shade and even jump up on a chair if she wants.  She's like my baby, I know when to move her back into the house for a little nap on the couch (her not me!), and sometimes I put her in the screened Summerhouse and she feels like she's sort of part of the action.



It was a quiet weekend on our part of the lake, none of our neighbors were up, hence, no other dogs.  Milo actually stayed on our property and followed me around out of boredom I think.   I spent the morning cleaning up.  The last time we were there we had my DIL's family up, a very full house.  There were folded blankets and pillows everywhere.  Sheets and towels to wash and I could feel the gritty sand under my bare feet everywhere.  So I did that for a long time, watered my new landscaping in the front (everything is doing so well!), and then spent the later part of the afternoon and evening chilling.











And while we are on the subject of birds, I have so had it with these sparrows here at home.  I filled the birdfeeder the other day, which is no small feat as I have to climb on a chair and try to grab it as it swings back and forth.  So I filled it and later that afternoon it was almost empty and most of the seed was on the ground.  I had what looked like hundreds of sparrows on and around the patio.  So, as it happens, there was an article about "House Sparrows" in one of those lake newspapers  pictured above.  They can be quite a nuisance and aggressive toward other birds.  I was lamenting about this to my next door neighbor, Susie, she is very knowledgeable on the subject of birds.  She feeds them as well as hummingbirds and know a great deal about our feathered friends.  I asked her if it would be a detriment to feed the birds at the lake knowing that it won't last into the winter.  She doesn't think so...I just don't want any starving birds once we start to come up less.  So I am going to pack up my feeder and seed and bring it all north!!  I may even get one or two more at Home Depot this week as I'll only be there to feed them on weekends.  I'm wondering if this will make enough food to go around or if it will just attract more birds.  And just so I don't neglect those feisty little sparrows, I'll keep some seed here to toss out to them in the morning.  


I have a bad habit of buying books on my Nook and having them in my "library" and then forgetting about them.  Actually you can reserve books on your wish list and I should do that.  Anyway, I was visiting Vicki at Life In My Empty Nest last week and she was talking about this book.  Vicki is a voracious reader much like myself.  The cover rang a bell and sure enough, it was in my "library".  This is a memoir about a young woman who suffers several huge blows in her life and feeling there is nothing left to lose, decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to upper Washington state, alone.  With no experience she sets out to try to piece her life back together.  Over 1,100 miles on foot, alone.  This book has really been taking off and the author was recently interviewed by Oprah on her OWN channel.  I was able to download it and I am just in awe of this writer and her story, her courage and her incredible writing.  I'm halfway through and as always, I never want a good book to end.

I know a lot of us look back on our lives, maybe sometimes marveling at the things we did in our twenties or thirties; trips we took alone, places we dared to go, just solitary adventures and experiences for which we didn't need or want a partner, whether it be a best friend or husband.  In the past few years I've watched my children begin to flap their wings and fly off making nests of their own, having wonderful new experiences. In a very real way, I feel my wings have been clipped, and surely by my own doing.  I was/am so far removed from my past and the things I did without thinking twice.  I don't take a lot of chances anymore, I don't seek out many new adventures alone.  I've been surrounded by this fantastic, close knit, loving family of my own here for so long that it hasn't occurred to me that I might have  lost touch with "going it alone".  And I know now I am thinking good and hard about it, because in time, we might not have a choice but to go it alone.

I was up at the lake a few weeks ago.  The Husband had gone to bed.  I was sitting in my rocker in the Great Room reading and at about 10:00 p.m. I decided a glass of wine would be good.  I poured a glass of Pinot and looked in the freezer and there was no ice.  Oh, I have to have ice!  I looked out at the dark patio.  We have another fridge out there and the freezer always has ice in it.  But you know what?  I was scared!  Yes, I've seen raccoons out there.  I've found coyote dung.  I've been swarmed by bats.  And there will always be the LaMunion Brothers from town (another story).  I kept telling myself I was crazy, just flick the lights on and run out.  I felt paralyzed and angry at myself for fearing something I knew was much bigger than an animal... and that it was going to seriously challenge, if not change the independence I  now need and seek in my life.  So I sucked it up, walked down the steps outside with Milo (and that was taking a chance, too, as he could have taken off after an animal and then I would be running through the woods alone!).  I got my ice and forced myself to walk down to the dock.  I stood there for awhile soaking in the moon and stars.  I sat down on the end and let my feet dangle in the warm water.  Milo laid next to me.   I drank my glass of wine.

It was a small step.  I asked myself recently, when was the last time I went to the lake alone?  It would have to be about ten years ago,  Milo was a puppy and I brought him to the vet there in town to be neutered, it was cheaper than the city.  I don't know what has happened to me since.  I told Emily, I want to drive up to the lakehouse during the week when nothing is going on, when nobody needs me.  I'll have the dogs, a bag of groceries and a good book.  I'll take the kayak out on the bay and wear a big straw hat.  I'll eat what I want  for dinner and then make an outdoor fire at night and sit with a blanket on my shoulders until I've had my fill of the moon and stars.  I have to be the captain of my ship.  

A snippet of a review of Wild
"Strayed's journey was at least transcendent as it was turbulent.  She faced down hunger, thirst, injury, fatigue, boredom, loss, bad weather and wild animals.  Yet she also reached new levels of joy, accomplishment, courage and peace..."

Well, I'll leave it at that.

  

Leaving for the lake again Friday, this time for a whole week.  Yahoo!  Our friends, Craig and Snow are there now for a little vacay and so we will all spend the weekend together before they leave.  I'm so looking forward to some "girl time" with Snow.  I have a tech from Comcast coming Monday so I hope to have the Internet up and running and I will get back in touch! :)

XO,
Jane 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A TABLESCAPE & THE LATEST


We never made our little weekend trip to the lake.  The Husband had a big trial coming up this week and thought he would do some of his work there.  Alas, Internet problems there, too, (hence no blogging from there lately).  So we were stuck at home.  In order not to rip my hair out, I made him take me to dinner Saturday night.  We went to a place I had never been to before called Mart Anthony.  A cool, casual place in an up and coming area in the South Loop.  Great Italian food.  I loved it and we had a really good time.













We have been talking about getting new carpet in our family room and office for what seems like years.  It's the only part of our house that doesn't have hardwood floors, that being because directly beneath it is the crawlspace (yes, the dreaded crawlspace I mentioned above...it's truly haunting me).  The Husband believes the carpet and padding keeps the room warmer and I have to agree.  Finally I found a woman that Emily knows on a Facebook page for area mothers that does the whole carpet deal for you..  So I made an appointment and she was just the nicest lady.  We know some of the same people and love the same area restaurants...I felt like we were good friends.  So anyway, I picked out a very neutral, pretty sort of flat carpet, but very soft.  The price came in and it was sensational.  The Husband had gone to Home Depot and got prices to compare and we are getting such a great deal.  

Well, now is the fun part.  Everything has to be moved out.  They can work around my humongous sofa, loveseat and chair.  The office however...it gives me chills to even think about.  Emily has stuff in there from when she went to school.  I have craft things in there from 10 years ago.  Books are stacked up on the floor and bins are filled with every conceivable thing but what they were intended for.  This is a room that has become what it is because each of us have been afraid to throw out something that is important to someone else.  I am SO not looking forward to this.  And I also have to have our blinds installed.  I picked them up from Home Depot well over 6 weeks ago.  It's free installation.  I don't know about you but I really dislike having someone fixing or installing or doing something in my home.  I have to put the dogs in the basement and then I feel like I'm at odds with what I can do while they are there.  It's irritating.  And for the love of God!  I have 16 windows!  They are going to be here til Thanksgiving!

 
I do have something to be really happy about.  We have finalized our plans to meet up with my favorite blogger Cindy from Applestone Cottage.  Many of you know that Cindy and her husband Dan have become our good friends since our first meetup in Galena, Illinois.  We absolutely clicked and this will be our 6th year getting together.  We chose Madison, Wisconsin this year.  We live bout 5 hours apart (Cindy and Dan in western Wisconsin) so this year we are closer to their neck of the woods.  One year they drove 7 hours to stay with us at the lakehouse!



So, that's it for today.  I am making ribs on the grill tonight, well actually soon because I think they have to cook slow.  This is my first time doing them on the grill.  I thought about inviting some of the kids (one couple, that is), but I'm worried that they won't turn out.  Isn't that silly?  Actually, it's more about my state of mind.  If it's just The Husband and I, at the lake for instance, I'd just throw those babies on, maybe remember to look at my watch, sit back with a glass of wine and read the lake newspaper while they smoked away.  But with company...my expectations and worries go up.  We'll see.  I still have 45 minutes until I have to get them going!  Ha!

Have a great rest of the week! :)

XO,
Jane 

Friday, August 1, 2014

GARDEN & GRILLING TIPS FROM A TOTAL BLONDE


I love to putter around my garden.  This is "putter" season.  I pull some weeds, I water the pots with my little old watering can, I add some organic food to the lawn and most of all, I sit in the early evening (okay...this is the 'slothiness" part, (I made up that word.), and just watch as the sprinkler moves back and forth, catching beads of sun, and hearing the faint splatter as it showers my plants.  Mesmerizing!  It's a shame we can't hear what falling snow sounds like when it hits the ground in the winter.  What do you imagine it to be like?  Maybe that's the beauty of it...that it's a silent wonder,  For someone like me who only has about 20% hearing left, that's a relief!  I don't want to miss anything else in this life of mine!

Oh, by the way.  This is Tickseed, the feathery kind that gets lots of tiny flowers.  I had some extra from the lakehouse and I planted it here in the city.  Isn't it pretty?






    I saw these coming up and wondered what the heck they were.  I've been known to pull up what I think are weeds only to find they are flowers.  Gulp.  I looked at my graph which has a bird's eye sketch of my yard and all of the things I've planted since 200 B.C. and I didn't see anything in that spot.  Then it bloomed and I declared, "Phlox!"  But nothing on my diagram.  The other day I found a big envelope in my shed in which I keep all the 'sticks" that come with my plants...you know, the ones with the name and info, etc.  And I found one for Phlox.  It never made the diagram.  I'm slacking off, but what a nice surprise.  I thought maybe it was a present from the birds!  I get a lot of those.



I love me sprinkler!!  But I only use it on my lawn.  I use it about 2-3 times a week if there is no rain and I let it soak the grass down about an inch and 1/2, or as far as half my index finger can do down and feel moisture.  Again, I'm not an expert, but this works for me.  When we have had a good bit of rain, I am much more stingy with watering.  And I read some advice by the late great Thalassa Cruso, if you plan to be away, like on a vacation and don't have a way to have your lawn watered, wean it off slowly in the weeks before.  Grass can get spoiled! Oh, how I loved this woman...truly the Julia Child of gardening.  Look up her books, I discovered them over 25 years ago.  They are a pretty penny now...collectors items.  She wrote essay style.  A woman after my own heart.

And the last thing...as you can see from my picture above, I like to soak my plants,  with just a regular  hose at a medium type of flow.  This is just for my flower beds.  Leaves don't need or want water and the roots need it.  Why waste water?  Of course it takes time to move that hose around.  I have it going while I'm working in the yard and move it periodically.  Try to position the hose so the water puddles around the plant and ideally flows down to another plant.  Double the money.  I really love when I'm sitting out in the evening, the dogs languishing in the cool grass, getting up to move the hose around a bit, knowing it's making those tender roots plump up and say, "ahhhh!"  As you can see, I love my mulch.  It's work to buy, haul in and spread, but it's totally worth it and  not expensive.  I use shredded bark and put it down every spring.  I love that it smothers a lot of weeds, keeps the plants cool and holds that moisture in.  It looks good, too.  I have some beds that are free flowing and natural...and I have some that are very neat and tidy.  The mulch enhances all of them.  Try the soaking method.  You can almost hear that "slurp!" :)



I am switching to my never ending quest to learn how to grill food!  I won't bore you as I think probably 9 out of 10 of you know tons more than me.  But I am a creative cook so this is more of me passing along a few things I tried that worked on the grill.  Pictured above is a salmon filet that serves four.  I just cooked it skin side down with a little blend of olive oil, apricot preserves, green onions and some garlic salt.  Delish.  Close the cover and let it smoke just a short while...fish dries out fast.

Something that takes longer and I put it on ahead of everything else, are sliced potatoes.  I cut one potato per person in 1/2 inch rounds, just nice and thick so they don't fall apart.  In a bowl I toss the slices with some veggie oil (it just does better at high heat and browns everything better, but by all means, use the oil you prefer), some S & P, garlic and onion powder and maybe some dried herbs that you like.  Grill about 7-10 minutes per side and stick a sharp knife in the middle to test for doneness.  Oh heaven!  A little sour cream or a few drips of melted butter makes this out of sight when you serve.  As for the rest of my grilling experimentation, slow going.  I only test things on The Husband and he has a penchant for liking most everything.  Ha!

  



Lastly...Chicago  is hosting the Lollapalooza Festival for the ninth year in a row.  3 days long in Grant Park, it's a fantastic time and draws huge crowds.  Lots of great live music acts and fantastic food.   I haven't been but would love to go one year, I know many who have gone and just loved it!  I'm bringing it up because you may have heard of it.  And we have just been down for the count as a city if you follow the news.  I want to give a shout out for some of the things we are good at, proud of.  Say a prayer that the gun violence, here and everywhere will end...it's very close to home.  I put my faith in our mayor and police department.  I'm not going political on anyone.  Just please say a prayer for all of the innocent people in our city who are facing this violence and the aftermath in these past few month.  Chicago Pride!

Thanks.

Jane

And

Monday, July 28, 2014

50 WAYS NOT TO HAVE A PARTY


You might remember that we were going to have a BBQ on Saturday and yes, we did.  It was a lot of fun but I am sorry to say I only have a handful of pictures.  I was going to try to get pics when everything was set up but we were actually doing that even as the first couple of people came.  If I learned anything from this particular party, if someone offers to help, don't try to act like you're Mr. Nice Guy and get all "Aw, shucks" over it.  Be firm.  Say exactly when and how you want that help.  I was offered a tent, tables and chairs as well as some setting up help.  I was also offered some help in the kitchen.  Most of it happened but I think it turned into more of a disaster in the making and no one was very happy.  I'm all for delegating, but not if it involves more than making a simple dessert to bring or loaning some extra folding chairs.  





I thought I had planned ahead...we do this sort of stuff at the lake all the time so as I try to think back on what went awry that day, it's mind boggling. 

Maybe I didn't prepare for the unexpected.  I woke up at 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning having asthma issues.  I reached for my inhaler and it was empty.  It became worse and worse until The Husband could get to the pharmacy at 9:00 a.m.  I was finally getting my breath by noon but many hours wasted.

We thought we could squeeze in other obligations.  We had two graduation parties that day that we (The Husband and I) thought we could manage by each of us going to one for about an hour.  I raced out the door an hour before my own party to go to another party up the street where I barely knew any of the 60 or so guests.  I stood like a wallflower with my teensy plastic cup of wine and looked at my watch every other minute.  

I could have done without the tent, I worried too much about rain.  I should have done more ahead of time, I got a little too confident that time was on my side.  And I must never run out of my meds!

 












These are bamboo forks and knives that I stock up on from a website called Smarty Had A Party.  I love this place.  They have everything disposable to take your party up a notch but make the clean up easy.  Most of the stuff is sold in bulk so one or two bags of utensils or napkins (in every color of the rainbow) can last me all summer long.  I keep some of the disposable forks in a Mason jar on the kitchen counter to grab for a snack or take out food.  


Yesterday was my "I'm not doing anything" day.  I really need time to slow down, stop and smell the roses.  I ate leftovers all day and dug deep into a mystery novel I'm reading.  I wouldn't even go outside with the dogs...I have had enough of the Great Outdoors.  Then today I woke up to sunny skies and just when I thought I was losing that summer enthusiasm, you know, when you can't stand the sight of another weed and keeping your yard neat comes second to cleaning the bathroom, I felt renewed.  I got showered and dressed and decided to pick up where The Husband left off outside yesterday cleaning up.  I picked up branches from the wind we've had the last few days, I watered my plants and swept and filled the bird feeder.  It is glorious out there!!  Do you see the striped outdoor rug there?  I had been really stubborn about not getting one even though our patio is really, really cracked and split.  That happens when you've been outside in the wind, rain, sun and cold for over 80 years!  What I thought was just a little old time charm started to get ugly so I broke down and got this from Home Decorators (on sale) and I think it looks good with my replacement umbrella.  


Did you notice the green beans?  My first harvest!  And my only harvest...I planted the beans in a container and well, you just don't get as many as you do when you have a few rows in your garden patch.  I am getting some decent container lettuce and the tomatoes are getting big, just not red.  :(



Other than an eye doctor appointment tomorrow and maybe a trip for a few groceries, I am free as a bird this week.  There is no company in sight coming up to the lake and The Husband surprised me, he has taken a week off the second week in August for us to go up there and just do nothing.  But of course we will.  I'm still working on the never~ending job of expanding my English Garden but we also plan on scouting out some new towns, flea markets and restaurants.  Can anyone tell me the name of a good beach read?!! :)


XO,
Jane

Joining Brenda at Cozy Little House for Tweak It Tuesday

Friday, July 25, 2014

OH WHERE DO I START AND A HUGE BBQ


Okay.  Enough.  We had our big group at the lake this past weekend.  One of my biggest joys is seeing anyone play in the sand.  That's what lake life is all about.  Okay...among other things, ahem.  Let me introduce you to Emmett.  He loves the sand and rarely left it...only to go on the boat.  And the one thing he talked about over and over when he got home was the swans.  And we have plenty of them.  They seem to multiply each year (but the huge turtles in our bay are making them diminish a bit, if you know what I mean).   Anyway, what a cutie!









As usual...fun in the sun.  Out on all the water toys, lots of great food and snacks...a few naps for myself and Peggy (the matriarchs) and a lot of fun keeping multiple dogs separated (no, they don't always like one another, although Milo has quite a love affair with that Golden across the creek...she's now crossing over to see him!!  Brazen hussy!!)








 I really, really wanted to have a backyard barbecue...like we used to have before the old grill died and we resorted to eating my dreary meals at the table...not enjoying any of the F & F other than the wilted, dyed daisies from the grocery store (those bright blue daisies should be outlawed...sick) on the dining table.  I wanted to enjoy all the plants and flowers and mulch and cute little garden signs and votive citronella candles while we dined.  No matter that I had no idea how to cook on a gas grill.



Anyway...never one to back away from a challenge...with my brand spanking new grill and all my pretty flora (fauna only if I fill the bird feeder which I am cruelly selective about),  I have invited a mere 32 close family and friends for a BBQ on Saturday.  I am so ready!!  Armed with a list and my right hand woman, Abby, we hit Home Depot, Target, Binny's and the grocery today.  We have it all...we have family who will be
bringing tents and tables and chairs.  We have the good old bean bag boxes and a new game...something involving throwing a Frisbee at a beer bottle on top of a Tiki torch.  And you are required to drink something if you hit it or not.  You know, one of those "beer games" I just don't know about.  And Abby, our little waitress and bartender (she has had as a supplemental living) is making some sort of tropical drink that we all get a shot of considering the whole "B" family will be there.  We did find cute, trendy striped straws that we will be cutting into 2 inch segments for this little shot of Bali.  And  we have trendy colored plastic tablecloths and votives from the Dollar Store. I will try to get pictures...my family really gives me h*** when I interrupt a good time with random shots.  The best I can do is get people to pose and that takes away from my fun.  Ha!!!



Five teeth gone and still barking at the hot UPS guy...I think he's fine.  I may save his pain pills for my own personal use...like this barbecue. 

Joining Alice at Thoughts From Alice Sundays

XO,
 Jane