Monday, June 22, 2015

A CELEBRATION, RAMBLINGS & A RECIPE


 
What a great last few days we've had and I'll be honest, I'm so tired.  I don't put myself up there with the 9-5'ers, but I'm on the go most of the day.  I really should get a new pedometer, mine broke.  The Husband and kids simply don't believe my lifestyle adds up to a whole lot of moving.  Grrrr...
 
 Emily and I hung out on Thursday.  I found some cool 4th of July decorations at The Dollar Tree for my cookout and then a trip to Party City and Michael's garnered her some inspiration and items to decorate for Elsie's christening on Sunday.  Em was designated Party Decorating Extraordinaire!  And what a great job she did with everything  I love the banner.  She used cardboard pieces, attached scrapbook paper, some sparkly embellishments and strung them on  twine to spell out "God Bless Elsie"  I have to admit, I've always used fabric to make banners but these cardboard pieces did not fold or flip or blow in the wind.  Just a tip.
 
 
 
Mary Clare had some lightweight white tablecloths and then Emily layered those with pastel plastic 'runners'  Then she used inexpensive Baby's Breath in Dollar Tree vases (that she had), with clear pastel glass 'stones' to anchor the flowers in water.  Some candles and bows here and there and it looked festive, and a little on the girly side. 
 
We had a lot of fun at the after-party; great food, drinks and desserts.  A fabulous celebration for our baby girl.
 
 
 
 
Of course there was the baptism beforehand!  Just some family pictures here.  We were the only baptism so it was lovely and so personal.   Elsie was totally chill and never uttered a cry.  She was content in trying to eat her dress.  One of her endearing traits is trying to stuff everything and anything into her mouth!  And the dress.  Mary Clare found a fabulous seamstress/friend who fashioned a christening gown for Elsie out of a section of MC's wedding gown.  Isn't this gorgeous?  I've never seen anything so beautiful and the idea and sentiment is phenomenal. 
 
 
 
The proud godparents.  MC's older sister, Nora, and my son, Jeffrey.  I'm in awe looking at Jeff holding Elsie, he has always said, "Nah" when offered.  He's great with kids, fragile infants make him a bit nervous. 
 
And we grandparents, The Husband, me and Peggy.  Peggy lost her husband years back, and MC and her siblings their father as well.  So we are a party of three.  I hope all the loving and loved family members are looking down proud and happy.   
 
 
 
Finally, my four kids and the new, very loved addition to our family.  Wow, look at those smiles!
 
 
 
As if you didn't get enough gardening pictures last week, I thought I'd show you some daylily's in full bloom.  And I have another area of these surrounding a big walnut tree that will bloom later as they are in the shade.  What an easy, pretty and so loved plant.
 
 
 
I just submitted my July column for the lake newspaper.  I really love writing it and I use my own pictures.  I included my recipe for potato salad so now I'm sharing it with you.  After all, it's finally Summertime. 
 
Blondie's Potato Salad
 
I have to say something about tradition.  Family recipes are sacred.  One Christmas I decided to make a sweet potato soufflé instead of my regular sweet potatoes tossed with brown sugar and butter.  You would have thought I tried to re-write the bible.  People like tradition.  And whether you are having a small group or a crowd, you just don't need Aunt Sally or Papa Joe rocking the boat because you changed one single thing.  So where does that leave those of us who like creativity?  Make small changes.   Be subtle.  But take advantage when you have company like you might have in the summer when there are a variety of dishes to choose from.  If they don't like that you're adding red pepper to your pasta salad instead of green, they can skip it and go for another side dish.  Most times they are totally happy and inspired by the 'new' way of doing the same old blah dish. 
 
So here is my latest rendition of potato salad that came as an epiphany one morning at the lake as I was cleaning up a big breakfast that had included some thick sliced bacon.  It was such a hit at our lunch on the patio with friends that day that I've made it many times since and it never fails to please.  I've changed it around a bunch of  times so feel free to do so yourself!
 
***
 
***Blondie's Potato Salad***
 
6 medium size Idaho potatoes*
1 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup diced shallots
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 to 1 1/2 cups mayo (no salad dressing!)
3 slices of thick bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled
2 tablespoons of bacon drippings
3 tablespoons of potato skins**
2 tablespoons of chopped chives
One hard boiled egg, roughly chopped in small pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
 
***
 
Scrub the potatoes and add to a large pot of salted boiling water.  Cook until an inserted knife finds them firm all the way through.  Do NOT overcook* or they will crumble when assembling the salad.  Remove to a colander and let cool and dry.
 
Meanwhile, prepare your veggies and parsley. Place in a small bowl.  Perhaps prepare your egg but keep it separate.  
 
Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel the skin with a paring knife trying not to remove any flesh if possible.  Reserve about 3 tablespoons of the skin.**  Chop into small pieces.  Add this to a small skillet with the 2 tablespoons of drippings and gently fry until crisp.  Bacon fat smokes and burns easily so watch the temp of the heat. Remove and drain on paper towels.  Combine with bacon  pieces and set aside. 
 
Cut potatoes into 1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks.  Place in a large bowl and season with about a teaspoon of salt and pinch of pepper.  Begin to fold in mayo by the 1/2 cup (very gently).  How much creaminess you want is up to you so just keep adding slowly.  Reserve about 1/2 cup and then add your celery and shallots and parsley.  Fold in the rest of the mayo along with another pinch of salt. 
 
Spoon the salad into a pretty bowl, top with the chopped egg, then the bacon/potato skin combo.  Sprinkle the chives over and then chill for at least one hour before serving. 
 
There are many variations of this recipe---think of all the ways you like potatoes.  Fried potatoes with peppers and onion for breakfast?  A little cheddar cheese on 'tater skins'?  The toppings are wide open.  Use any sort of herb...go Italian with chopped basil and oregano (dried is best).  Dot with sour cream and chives.  One last bit of advice, going back to the sweet potato debacle of 2012.  Reserve a small bowl of your tried and true recipe for the purists.  It's not going to be a happy meal if someone is grumbling.  On the other hand, you'll have folks raving and asking for 'your' potato salad for years to come.  It's just up to you to remember which version it was.
 
Sorry if the recipe seems loooong.  Just Pin it and print it---it really is so good.
 
I'm off.  We have serious tornado and storm warnings.  Doesn't that seem to be the pattern these past few weeks?  I wonder if the newer technology the weather people have in tracking storms and then the availability of new technology in keeping us informed plays a big role in keeping us ready, if not on edge?  But  safe.  And in my case, worried sick.  I have and always will have a fear of tornadoes.  Growing up in the wide open country will do that to you.  If you have warnings, can I just tell you what we do?  I keep a candle lit in the kitchen which leads to the stairs to our basement, as well as a flashlight.  I keep the same in our laundry room which is the most secure spot in our basement.  We fully charge our cell phones as soon as we have a threat of bad weather.  Bring your pets to a safe place with you and another good idea is to keep a few bottles of water in your secure place.  Lastly, keep your doors unlocked in the event you have major damage to your home and God forbid, you are trapped.  If you want to add to my 'amateurish' list, please do so in the comments.   
 
See you towards the weekend. :)
 
Jane x
 
 

 
 
 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

GARDEN PARTY

 
 
I'm so happy to be a part of the Garden Party that Brenda at Cozy Little House is hosting.  After you have a chance to read my post, please visit these other ladies who share a love in all things that grow and enhance a garden.  So many of you, my besties, have seen some of these pictures, but nature is ever changing, perhaps that's why I love to be in my gardens as much as possible.  And I try to make it a welcoming place to visit.  So grab your coffee or a cool drink and come along!
 
 
Welcome!  I adore pots, the more old and chippy and unique, the better.  I have a fairly large patio in my backyard so I love to be surrounded by pots that I make up differently from year to year.  And a little whimsy like this stake can be found around every corner to make you smile!
 
 
One of the unique things about living in a neighborhood of a very large city is that each and every home is so different.  One of my favorite things to do is to take long walks and get landscaping and gardening ideas  One common thread in our neighborhood is that the front yards of homes are very much 'manicured'.  People like a uniform feel and enhancing curb appeal.  I like to go a bit more crazy in my backyard. In front I have pretty shrubbery that I keep closely trimmed, tons of ivy and some perennials (Elephant Ear and Joe Pye Weed) that bloom later in the summer.  I added some red geraniums this summer along the border and an urn bursting with color on the porch.
 
 
 
 
I have a large bay window in front and every year I fill flower boxes.  This year I used a lot of Dianthus, Lobelia and Nicotiana for a blowsy look.  It's taking it's own sweet time filling in but is oh so colorful. 
 
 
 
Walking around to the back gate we have this odd little concrete patio and an ancient park bench.  I jazz it up with pots of flowers every spring.  People pushing babies in strollers or walking dogs sometimes pause and smile. 
 
 
 
I'm always on the lookout for the oddball pieces to use in my gardenscapes.  Every spring it all gets moved around.  This old iron chair belonged to the original owners of our home, which is now 80 years old.  It's missing a leg so I always prop it against something!  Ha! 
 
 
 
I found this iron basket in Michigan where we have our lakehouse.  I find the most unique pieces up there in the country as well as plants and flowers I can't find here in Chicago.  How lucky can you get shopping 100 miles apart?
 
 
 
This wood framed 'window' was found at a junk shop a few years ago.  I'd love some ideas on how to give it more personality.  I thought of stenciling something on the front of the box.  Have we gotten over French script yet?   Maybe some sort of applique?  A mini wreath hanging in the center?  It's a little blah in spite of the pretty flowers.
 
 
 
Re~using anything I can makes me smile.  An old galvanized feed bucket found in the garage of our lake home in the country held a mini evergreen/Christmas tree 6 months ago and now it's filled with Million Bell petunias.  It sits on an old weathered picnic bench. 
 
 
 
I'm really late in the game but I have been coveting perennial flowers, brighter colors, and feeding the birds after many years of not having the time or inclination to do more than plant some annuals, a few pots of herbs and a small vegetable garden.  Dividing our time between Chicago and our house in Michigan has always been difficult in the summer months so I've had to keep everything very low maintenance (at both homes).  If you are new to my blog, we had serious water damage there from a broken pipe in February.  We are hoping, on a wing and a prayer, that we will be back in our home in the early fall.  And that's a whole different garden party in itself! :)  So---I have had more time to baby my gardens here.  I've always had a lot of birdhouses, but I never actively fed the birds because I would sometimes spend 3-4 days in Michigan and the back and forth situation might have been a little cruel to the poor feathered creatures who were expecting a meal when I wasn't here (or there).
 
So I'm spending so much more time in my little backyard paradise here in the city.  To my surprise you wouldn't believe what I spotted recently.  Something that loves the color red...
 
 
 
Hummingbirds!  Yes!  All my hard work in establishing perennials over the past few years is paying off.  I ran out and bought a feeder and I've done a ton of research.  I'm so excited sitting on my patio,  looking for anything that moves that I can hardly read a page of my book!  And the butterflies...everywhere it seems.  Yesterday I was weeding the herb garden and came upon this:
 
 
 
I froze in amazement.  I've seen the fuzzy little yellow caterpillars on the sidewalk, but a Monarch-- Wow.  Funny how it matches this pot of dill. 
 
 
 
Then this morning I spotted this guy on the plant as well (do they like dill?).  He looks a bit different from the Monarch critter.  If you look closely straight through the middle of the plant you can see the first caterpillar.  I don't know that I have any milkweed in my yard but I have a ton at the lake.  I wonder if I inadvertently brought some seed home?
 
 
 
This is my wee little herb garden and I think it's just perfect.  Although I really love to cook, this is the perfect size and I don't have to 'give it away' due to to a bumper crop.  Every year I have my favorite Italian herbs; basil, oregano, parsley and rosemary.  This year I added lemon and German thyme.   Chives, dill, parsley and cilantro are a mainstay.  Most of the time I go out and snip as I need it.  Sometimes when it looks a little overgrown, I cut bunches of everything, put them in a glass container with water and keep them in my fridge to use in various recipes.  Ah...such inspiration for meals.
 
 
 
I have several garden beds along the perimeters of my house and fences.  I wish this one was in full bloom.  I'm in Zone 5 and I usually see major blooms around mid June with the plants I have.  But this year we have had an abundance of rain and although the grass and foliage is lush, the blooms are few and far between.  In this bed I have hydrangeas, lupines, delphinium (larkspur), Russian sage, Asiatic lilies and daylilies.  In between I mix in annuals but they are losing their space every summer when I add more perennial plants that catch my eye (especially when they go on sale in August!). 
 
 
 
 
I fell in love with lupine (that tall pink sort of plant) when I saw a picture of it on a well known gardening blog (Hi, Beth!).  I searched and couldn't find it in my area of Illinois.  Ah Ha!  We found it at our local nursery at the lake.  I also found Spiderwort there and some varieties of plants that I have yet to purchase.  I'm like a kid in a candy store sometimes. 
 
 
I have daylilies all over, they are so easy to grow and maintain and I divide them every few years and start them elsewhere. Depending on the sun and shade, they bloom at different times over the summer- got to love that.  The very original plants came from my sister Chrissy's yard---they were taking over.  She gave my sisters and I divisions.  I still have mine 20 years later.  Thanks, Chris. 
 
 
 
My love of clematis started when The Husband built an arbor leading from our dock to the lake.  He planted a white clematis vine that was just stunning.  This 'trellis' here at my house in the city was snagged by my daughter, Emily, when she saw a neighbor put it with his trash at the curb.  It's actually a wrought iron headboard.  I love it...it's perfect for the clematis and you can see it very well against a brick wall of our home. 
 
 
 
I'm winding up the Garden Party here.  I hope you've enjoyed a little bit of time here in Chicago.  When I walk around my garden I think of how everything old is new again.  Some things continue to be a part of our lives here, the huge old walnut trees, the old white lattice chair, the cracked concrete patio that I have no desire to replace.  I have old rickety wood birdhouses that may once have sheltered little feathered families in Michigan, they are now homes to robins and cardinals and sparrows here in Illinois.  My daylilies from sister's home far away (to me), and lupines and spiderwort from a nursery 100 miles away where they all know my name.  The whimsical, the odd, the unique...that's my first love and maybe it describes me as well.
 
 
 
Come visit. We'll take a little tour and smell the flowers, stand back so as not to scare the families in the birdhouses.  Watch the birds flit back and forth to the feeders with sunflower seeds and millet.  I'll divide some of my flowers for you if you'll do the same for me.  We can have coffee and scones in the morning, or a glass of wine and a plate of cheese in the evening.  You are all welcome! 
 
Please stop by again...there will be much more in bloom as this gorgeous summer goes on! :)
 
Thank you, Brenda for inviting me and a big thanks to my loyal followers.  If you are new...welcome!!  I hope you come back for a visit!
 
Jane x
 
 

Please visit the other ladies in Brenda's party~~~

 

Cathy at My 1929 Charmer
Courtney at Golden Boys and Me
Carol at Art And Sand 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

RAIN AND MORE RAIN & A GUEST ROOM PEEK

 
Million Bells and White Petunias
 
It's hard not to let the rain get you down, the gray skies and downpours that come out of nowhere just seem like the new norm.  Since I get a little stir crazy being indoors day after day, I dash out to the backyard with the dogs in between the storms and find a dry place to sit either under the eaves or the big table umbrella.  Add a lot of humidity and you have one desperate girl here.  Where I once used to move my pots around to catch the rain, I now move them to shelter so they can dry out and breathe a bit. 
 
 
 
Moss Roses
 
My routine every day is constant but varied.  After lunch I get in the car and find somewhere to go, even if it's to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner.  And dinners have gotten elaborate because I enjoy cooking and since I'm stuck inside...well, I turn into a mad scientist and we usually don't eat until about 7:30 p.m.
 
I'm plugging away with finishing up the guest room (a picture to follow) and I go from one store to the next trying to get the best deal on things I need.  Marshall's for a comforter and pillows, Target for sheets and a lamp.  Home Depot employees and I are now on a first name basis.  No 'one stop' shopping for me, just getting in my car and singing along to the radio is a bright spot in my day.  ;-)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Better Boy Tomatoes and Marigolds
 
It's a sure thing that I won't have tomatoes until mid August.  Our nights have been very cool up until this week so I didn't dare plant them.  And when I went to my nursery on Tuesday the only variety they had left was Better Boy.  Early Girl would have been my choice and I had also wanted plum tomatoes.  Next year maybe I'll just bite the bullet and plant them in May even with the possibility of having to cover them up at night. 
 
In the background you can see a funky sort of palm I found a few weeks ago.  It looks like it's just sitting randomly in the middle of my yard but actually, it's on a stepping stone.  It needs a ton of sun and rain so this is it's delegated spot for the summer.  I'll get a close up picture of it for you, it's really unique.
 
 
 
Guest Room Peek
 
I need just a few things before this room is finished.  Closet doors (Abby had been using a curtain) and knobs for the dresser I painted.  I'm looking for something vintage-like for the dresser, ring pulls actually  I fell in love with some that I saw at Restoration Hardware but the price exceeded the worth of the old dresser itself.  So I keep looking.  I painted over the little wicker dresser that I had done in a soft green, it just didn't look right with the gray wall paint so I gave it a white wash.  Still not happy so I think I'll try something else.  And this is the vanity seat I had downstairs, I gave it a coat of white paint and placed it at the end of the bed with a basket and throw (nice for little afternoon naps). 
 
 
 
I found a sheet set on clearance at Target and I am so happy with it.  I think it has sort of a vintage floral vibe and then I stumbled upon this little pillow downstairs (I really have a treasure trove down there), I think this was Emily's yet it looks hand embroidered and I don't know where she would have found it.  But it's perfect.  And I found an old oil painting on Etsy that came from an estate sale.  It was a steal and I can't wait for it to arrive.  I'll keep you posted.
 
 
 
Updated Bathroom
 
When I was at Target I couldn't help but look at the shower curtains.  I think all of you know that I'm sort of obsessed with changing them out every few months.  These little yellow flowers sort of popped out at me, a very unusual color for me to choose but they seemed to shout, "Summer!!"  I added two yellow hand towels and that was that.  Love quick updates like this. 
 
We had tickets to a Cub's game last night and you'll never guess.  It got rained out.  The Chicago Blues Festival didn't fare much better.  We're looking forward to a nice night out with the kids on Tuesday to celebrate Emily and Kevin's birthdays, and then Sunday is little Elsie's baptism.  Before you know the 4th of July will be here and although The Husband and I won't be hosting the usual 3 day bash at the lake, we are having a backyard barbeque.  We live three blocks from a big university and we can watch the fireworks right from our own house.  It all makes me feel a bit nostalgic-- the first time not spending the 4th at the lake in 25 years. 
 
I hope all of you are enjoying your weekend.  I caught up on some movie watching last night.  It's Complicated for a record third time, and then Cake with Jennifer Aniston.  I can see why she was nominated for several awards.  She is good. 
 
See ya soon!
 
Jane x

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

HEALTHY FOODS, A RECIPE & GARDEN DELIGHTS

 
My Cute Hummingbird Feeder
 
I do the Hummingbird watch as often as I can, too much perhaps.  Not far from my favorite seat on the patio but not too close to the feeder.  Close enough to the spot where I saw my first little guy.  As I did the HW over the past few days I brushed up on my knowledge of them and the feeding through Google.  I was correct in getting the red colored feeder as they go by sight rather than smell.  I seem to be in the right place with the flowers I have and they also love diving through water-as in sprinklers and I have mine going quite a bit to get the areas of my garden beds that are sheltered under eaves.  So I wait...
 
 
 
 
Planter of Mixed Lettuces & Arugula
 
We have some early lettuce to start using in salads.  I use a serrated knife to do a 'crew cut', and then we get another one or two more cuttings.  After this exhausts itself I may find something else that I can harvest in the fall.  Now---which is the lettuce and which is the arugula?  Does it matter?  I love the mix! :)
 
 
 
 
Daughter Emily went on a little weight loss program that has become somewhat popular.   I was skeptical at first but I learned soon enough that it was healthy and didn't require her giving up any food groups.  I will  only tell you the upside and downside that she kept me aware of.  First off, she's very much like me when it comes to portion control.  Should we eat the whole pork chop or half?  Should we have a half cup of popcorn or none?  A piece of cheesecake or 2 bites?  The program she went on was a sort of boot camp in portion control along with attention to the amount of protein, fat and carbs consumed in a day.  Meal planning was essential and in keeping track, she had containers proportionate to the size of her daily servings.  I liked that it involved "planning".  Those of us wanting to lose weight---(and I don't mean anyone who is at an optimal weight and can easily judge what they can and cannot eat every day) need guidelines.  In the end she adhered to the portions and the 'good for her foods'.  She planned her meals the night before and was not tempted to hit fast food places on her work days--she had it covered.  Yes, she was frustrated, moody and hungry the first few days.  But it only convinced her how she was eating the wrong foods at the wrong time in the wrong amounts.  She lost a enough weight to be very proud of herself .  She learned a great deal and I don't think she will be a mindless eater, hopefully for a long time if not forever. :)
 
Of course I was influenced but I truly know my best weight loss has involved keeping carbohydrates at a minimum.  So I did my best to mimic the portion control in Emily's program, and  in making meal plans the night before.  I basically cut my meals into half the proportions I had been eating and I added healthy salads to accompany lunch and dinner.  Filling up on veggies is always a good thing. 
 
Eating a salad twice a day calls for some creativeness.  I have to admit, after making a  few I knew I needed:  A) Texture  B) Some Sweetness  C ) Crunch (outside of cukes and celery)  D) More Protein  E) Some Herbs & Spices
 
So go for it.  This salad is something I make quite a bit.  A mix of fresh baby greens and some Romaine for crunch.  Various veggies form the fridge,  some garbanzo beans or any sort of canned beans you have.  A few tablespoons of quinoa, risotto, rice or cous cous---great texture. I toss in some dried cranberries, fresh berries, nuts and I'm happy.   And there you go...bases covered and you are smiling!
 
When you have all this, the best way to dress the salad is with a simple vinaigrette.   I made this up and I love it.  Here you go:
 
Blondie's Best Vinaigrette
 
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 c olive oil
1 T water
1 t honey
a pinch of salt and pepper
1 t. of your favorite herbs---I like an Italian blend. 
 
I like to mix everything up in a two cup measure and let sit at room temp for an hour or so.   Feel free to adjust any of the ingredients.  Fresh herbs are super!  Toss gently with your salad just before serving.  This is perfect for 4 cups of salad.  Refrigerate remaining dressing for 4-5 days.   
 
 
 
 
Hummus
 
Good and good for you.  I will make this myself one day.  Sorry-I put many things on Instagram that I post and vice versa.  So I'll say again, a lot of times I refrain from making certain recipes because I have to crawl into the back of one of my lower cabinets to pull out the dreaded food processor that I can never remember from time to time how to work.  Ha!
 
 
 
Layla
 
Doing what she knows how to do best.  So much rain.  When it's not doing that we rush outside to get some yard work and gardening done.  She doesn't know it, but her part in this is to lose a pound or two.  The diva LOVES to sleep!
 
 
 
 
When Rain & Humidity Wreaks Havoc
 
I can do selfies quite easily on IG.  On the blog---well, what does it say about your post?  So I'm here with a frizzy hair day to illustrate the wretchedly humid days we have been having.  Not all that bad I know...I should have caught it a few hours later after the wind got to it.  I would wear it this way but after the curls separate (it's wet here and springs up much more), I look like I stuck a finger in a light socket.  And then I have to mist it with more water to tame it.  Surely some of you can identify.  Yeah, it doesn't look too horrid here but maybe, just maybe I'll get a snap for you guys in the morning after I wake up with this mess.  :)
 
 
 
 
 
 
A lot of very uneventful days here.  I had some sort of stomach bug from Friday night to Sunday evening.  I've been pretty good since.  I was so pleasantly surprised when The Husband and I were invited to dinner with a group of couples he has known for years, actually going back to grade school.  All of us get together  once in awhile but it's years and years between.  So his college roommate invited us and several others to dinner at a new restaurant and I was excited.  At least about the restaurant.  I'm a little shy and awkward in social situations unless they involve people I know very well or complete strangers.  Go figure. 
 
Little did we know, The Husband's friend had reserved a private room.  Hors d' oeuvres were served on platters and drinks arrived on trays. We sat down at this huge table...13 couples in all, and we had the most fabulous time.  And in the end, 'L',  The Husband's friend, picked up the tab.  Incredible.  He is so sweet and generous and it was a wonderful night, a rare treat for all of us. 
 
I'm afraid I took up a lot of your time.  Just as I think I need to post but have nothing fresh to say, I look at my camera and I know I'll undoubtedly run away with it.  Anyway...our weather forecast is for some sun tomorrow and then 10 days of rain.  Yes, you read that right.  There's nothing much I can change or say about that.  Trying to think positive and planning indoor activities.  Mostly not the 'chore type' things!
 
Have a great week! :)
 
Jane x

Thursday, June 4, 2015

PLANTING, PAINTING & A TRIP TO DOOR COUNTY

 
Door County, Wisconsin
 
The Husband and I met up with my blogger friend Cindy (Applestone Cottage) and her husband for the 7th year in a row.  This year our destination was Door County. As usual, we love to shop all the great local stores and shops in each place we visit and try out restaurants, but the treat this time was the sheer beauty of this northern part of Wisconsin.  We took a few hikes, albeit short ones, down to rocky shores and up wooden bridges to look out over bluffs.  The views were spectacular.  It really does fill you with a sense of wonder and peace inside.  I really loved this part of our trip. 
 
Door County reminds me much of Martha's Vineyard in a lot of ways.  You can travel from one town to the next around the peninsula and each one offers something different and special.  And there are always views of the water.
 
 
 
The Country Resort
 
We stayed at a small but very nice resort in the town of Sister Bay.  Look at the beautiful view The Husband and I had from our balcony.  We had breakfast both mornings at the inn.  I had read that it would be a continental breakfast but it was much more; waffles, French toast, bagels, biscuits and gravy...yum!  A little carb laden but perfect to start the day with.  And this region prides themselves on their cherries, we had those with a dollop of vanilla yogurt at breakfast.  I brought home jars of cherry pie filling, salsa and jam. 
 
I had a glitch with my cell phone and I had forgotten my Rebel so I was using The Husband's cell to take pictures.  I fiddled and fussed trying to download them last night so in order to keep my wig on straight, this is all I have.
 
 
 
Cindy & Dan
 
The weather dropped down to the mid fifties the second day and I had forgotten to bring a jacket.  Good excuse as any for Cindy and I to shop while the guys had a few beers at The Blue Ox.  My favorite meal was a dinner we had at a restaurant called The Cookery.  It was still warm so we ate outside on a balcony overlooking the town's main street.  This was in Fish Creek.  I think I liked this town the best.  So many tiny beach cottages dotting the shore.  I absolutely love beachy resort towns!
 


 
Backyard Flowerbed
 
Back to reality on Monday, again alternating between painting furniture and planting flowers.  When The Husband went up to Michigan last week, I asked him to visit our local nursery there as I wanted lupines.  Beth from Beyond The Garden Gate inspired me to search these out.  I love all of the beautiful flowers she grows but these are so unusual to me.  So he brought home five plants.  What a sweet guy!  That's one on the right, the purple cone shaped flower.  I spread them out here and there. 
 
That small beige panel on the right is the opening to our crawl space,  I'm not disguising it very well with my picket fence planter, are I?  Maybe next year I can get some sort of waterproof paint and do some wildflowers on it.  Anything is better than this. :(
 
 
 
 
 

 
Honeysuckle
 
This is a trellis on the other side of the yard.  I love honeysuckle and I think it's doing pretty well in it's first full season.  Another trellis further down had a trumpet vine started last year and it didn't make it.  I may try it again. 
 

 
 
Clematis
 
Last week I showed you the pink clematis I'm growing and now the purple is taking off---sorry, I don't know the varieties.  The two are in fact, growing on the same trellis.  I'll get a better
shot soon.
 
 
 
 
And when I'm not in the garden I'm painting my little heart out in Abby's old room.  I finished the tall chest of drawers.  It was originally part of a bunk bed grouping for the kids way back when.  I did it in a soft white from the American Heirloom line at Home Depot.  I also used their clear wax and then lightly sanded parts to distress it a bit.  I wasn't going to keep the wicker furniture, it's old and it was faded and had stains.  Then The Husband mentioned he liked it so I thought--what the heck, I'll paint that dresser, too.  It's hard to tell but the color is a very, very pale and soft green.  We have a matching vanity and seat in Emily's room.  I'm thinking of painting the seat and making a little cushion for it.  Maybe as a sort of ottoman?
 
We are buying a bed frame and mattress this weekend and the headboard that I told you about from Pier 1?  Well, it wouldn't fit in my car.  I got a refund and then found something I liked better on Amazon and it has already shipped.  Next week I will be looking for bedding and then I think I'll know what to do next.  I am looking for a simple, cottage look.  Something faded with touches of pale floral here and there, like you might see at an inn in the English or French countryside.  I'm such a dreamer! lol!
 
Emily and I were up early today and off to the Farmer's Market.  Not much in the way of veggies yet...a lot of greens but that was it.  Emily sprung for some honey and a soy candle.  I found some infused vinegar and olive oil.  Then we came upon the farmer who sold us our hydrangeas last year at a steal.  Without much persuasion we each grabbed up one and I also chose a lilac bush as I've been wanting one for so long.  The beauty of buying from this man is that he sells 3-4 year old plants so you have quite a head start and they are all super healthy.  
 
I know summer is unofficially here when the bats start to swarm over my yard at dusk.  I used to think it was sort of fascinating to sit on my patio and watch their ten minute show of swooping and diving for bugs.  That is until the time one flew right under the table umbrella where I was sitting.  I could literally see the furry little face.  Ewwww...  Now I watch from the safety of the family room windows.  And, marvelous news!  I saw my first hummingbird yesterday afternoon, and I mean first time ever at this house at least.  I was so psyched. This morning I made Emily take a tour through Home Depot with me and I bought a bright red hummingbird feeder and I am ready to sit, camera in hand, for hours if I have to in order to see or get  snap of those wondrous critters! 
 
On to some quieter days.  Hopefully.  How are your June days going?
 
Jane x

Friday, May 29, 2015

GREAT FOOD, CUTE BABIES, GOOD TIMES

 
A summer change to the mantel
 
I don't think I've been so prepared for summer as I have this spring...reminds me of the title of an album by Maroon 5, "It Won't Be Soon Before Long".  Well, however you want to figure it.  Time is flying and for this time of year I have so much accomplished.  I always seem to feel I'm barely treading water yet I see so much progress in the projects I'm doing.  My imagination? 
 
I have a lot of irons in the fire right now.  Working on making comfy rooms of the den and Abigail's old room, soon to  be the guest room.  Still painting furniture and dragging stuff to the basement, curb and donation box at our church.  So many heavy bags, I should own stock in Hefty Trash Bags.  The catalyst was knowing  we were going to have a house/pet sitter this weekend and I simply couldn't let this person live amongst the clutter, paint cans and books...tons of books. 
 
 
 
A lightweight summer throw to brighten a chair
 
I'm terrible at making priorities.  I'm cleaning up a bathroom and as I walk past the guest room I decide to slap a coat of paint on the dresser.  20 minutes later I'm washing dishes and decide I need to make myself breakfast.  Somehow things get  done.  In practicality, while I was running up and down the stairs, it seemed right to bring back and forth pieces to make a transition from spring to summer (in some cases, winter to summer!).  So these are the changes, small as they may be. 
 
 
 
A vignette on an antique cabinet
 
The Husband made it home from his hiking trip in Colorado and believe it or not, we haven't had a chance to sit down and talk about it in the way we should,  He arrived home very late and tired Monday night and then had a busy day at work the following day.   Off he went to the lake Wednesday and was exhausted when he arrived back home.   There just isn't enough 'relaxed' time for us to sit and enjoy a nice talk yet--schedules, phone calls, business, work...it sounds crazy and as if we don't connect but we do, and we like to make it a special uninterrupted time to really make it a nice conversation  and time to enjoy each other.  So we will, perhaps on our way to Wisconsin tomorrow.  He did have a great time though and I?  Well I was sort of sad to see my time end. 
 
I was very good about several things.  One was to not 'neglect' myself, as in not making myself good meals and eating like a sloth just because I had no one else to 'cook for'.  It was fairly easy to keep up my routine of eggs, toast and coffee for breakfast; soup or salad for lunch, but dinner, hmmmm...I wasn't going to make a four course meal, nor was I going to get McDonald's,  So one night I had a soup I had frozen along with a huge Garbage Salad (think: everything and anything you can find in your fridge).  I made tuna salad and omelets, and ate a bowl of Skinny Pop every night while watching Bravo.  And as I mentioned in my last post, I worked outside in the garden and inside on the furniture painting, spent quality time with the hounds, did my blogging bit and a little reading---I felt alive and purposeful and that helped me miss him less,  :(
 
 
 
Fiesta Bean Salad
 
Emily made for a great holiday party on Sunday...just we hiker widows.  The weather was gloomy but the rain held off until later in the afternoon so we were able to sit on her deck under the big old maple tree.  She made beautiful sandwiches on artisan bread filled with turkey, cheese, arugula and pesto.  Heavenly.  And she made this salad that you can find on Skinny Taste.  This is a plate of leftovers I was digging into at home when I had the hindsight to take a snap.  So good...it's a Go To salad for this summer.
 
I left Emily's on Sunday and arrived home for Day 4 of my Staycation and who was on my doorstep but my scraggly little Abby.  I love her to pieces but I was sort of looking forward to putting on my PJ's and vegging out the rest of the evening.  Of course I did that but there's something comforting about stuffing whole handfuls of popcorn in your  mouth and chugging Diet Pepsi when no one is around.  I went to bed about 9:00, resigned to the fact that my late night marathons were not going to make it under her hawk eye.  She crawled into my bed with me a half hour later and though I'd love to say we talked and giggled for hours, it was more like a tug of war with the quilt and me begging her to turn off the television, which this younger generation needs to have on to merely to sleep (as in white noise).  But God.  I love her.  I even made her the Lumberjack Special breakfast the next morning.
 
 
Cousins
 
Off on Tuesday to get my hair done by Katie.  On the left is her baby, Margot, and then my granddaughter, Elsie on the right with daughter in law MC holding her.  Just 4 months apart, they will be best friends forever.  Margot gets hysterical looking at Elsie...like, "Hey, I recognize you!  You're a baby, too!"  The exciting news is Katie is pregnant again.  She and her husband, Kevin, absolutely wanted to have another baby soon and they got their wish!  They are off to Ireland Saturday where Margot will meet Kevin's side of the family for the first time.  Poor Katie is sick 24/7 so they bought mom, Peggy, a plane ticket to come and help out.  Family is everything.  The next trip I hope they think of me.  :)
 
 
 
Lemon Poppy Seed Bread
 
Peggy is always so kind to offer me coffee and sweets or a snack...she makes getting my hair done so special, for all of us really.  She's a genuine 'nurturer".  It occurred to me to bake and bring something Tuesday.  If you want to make this you can find Betty's recipe and all the ingredients in the baking aisle of your favorite grocery store.  Can't take any credit here. But delicious!
 
 
 
Changes in the family room
 
I needed a big time clean up after stuffing everything from the two rooms we were having painted in to our family room.  I figured I'd purge then.  Ha!  I could barely move amongst all the stuff.  But in all honesty, you know how to get it going when you have company coming, and as I mentioned earlier, I have a housesitter coming.   I carried things to the basement, to the trash, to the curb.  I dusted and wiped and scrubbed and vacuumed.  I arranged and rearranged.  For the past several months this table has been my sort of desk, this corner of the family room my office as I simply got a better Internet connection here.  That along with a gorgeous view of the backyard and the big screen TV made it ideal but I felt a bit closed off as this room is way off at the other end of the house from the kitchen and main rooms we use.  Long story short, I abandoned this set up and found a temporary place for some of my dishes.  I know this makes no sense whatsoever but it works for now.  Enjoy the view, dishes. 
 
 
 
I fussed and plumped and poked the other side of the family room so said housesitter can watch TV and relax.  I love her to pieces.  Her name is Kate (yes, lots of Kate's in this area), and she grew up across the street and is one of Emily's oldest and dearest friends.  She knows us and the dogs and she'll do great.  With Abby living up north, I simply don't want to put anyone out.  It also makes me feel a bit liberated that I don't have to depend on any of the kids.  I have my sources now. Ha!
 
You really can't see but on the lower shelf of that coffee table there are about 100 gardening and décor books.  I'm sneaky like that. ;-)
 
 
 
 
 
Simple Strawberry Tart
 
Lot's of good food pics in this post, notice no flowers?  Next time for sure.  I needed something quick and easy to bring to Emily's little soiree over the weekend...something sweet.   I had seen a recipe for individual tarts made with Phyllo dough and  after several screw ups, decided to scrap it and make one big tart. 
 
Phyllo dough, in my limited baking world, makes puff pastry look like plywood.  Each transparent sheet is fragile beyond belief.  I think working with it takes a lot of time and effort and patience, none of which I have.  I had an hour before the party.  Here's my version of a strawberry tart.  And yes, it was very, very good.
 
1/2 package Phyllo dough
1 pint of strawberries, roughly chopped
1 large round  of Brie cheese, roughly cut into small pieces
Cooking spray
2 T. sugar, separated
 
Most packages of Phyllo dough come in two portions. They should be kept frozen and thawed just before using. You will only need about 5-6 sheets from one portion so simply defrost one packet.  Save the rest for whatever you come up with.
 
Preheat oven to 375.  Prepare strawberries and cheese and have ready in separate bowls.  Toss the strawberries with one tablespoon of the sugar to release the juices.   Spray an 8 inch tart pan or similar size baking dish with cooking spray.  Unroll Phyllo dough and carefully arrange one piece after another in the tart pan, spraying lightly and evenly with cooking spray between each layer.  Turn each sheet a bit so the layers are sort of fanning out and press gently to fit in bottom of pan.   Do this until you've used about 5-6 sheets depending on how thick you want the crust to be...I like the effect I got here.  Add the cheese covering the bottom of the dough as evenly as possible and then top with the strawberries the same way.  Gently lift the edges of the dough and fold over toward the middle of the tart, pressing to make a sort of cinched edge.  Spray lightly with cooking spray and dust with a bit of granular sugar.  Bake for about 35 minutes or until edges are golden.  Serve hot or at room temperature. 
 
That's all I have for now.  Tomorrow we leave for Sister Bay, Wisconsin, for a much needed (for me) 3 day break.  Nothing like a little R&R along one of our Great Lakes.  I've never been, so I'm looking forward to a great experience.  And The Husband and I will have 4 straight hours of driving to talk about his adventure in the wilderness.  Oh joy.  :)
 
See you next week!
 
Jane x