Sunday, February 7, 2016

ELSIE'S 1ST BIRTHDAY PARTY


****BIRTHDAY GIRL****


I absolutely want to start out by thanking everyone for the wonderful birthday wishes.  You are all such good friends.  It definitely makes getting older much sweeter!  After celebrating the night before, I met with my friend/partner in crime/fellow grandmother to Elsie, Peggy, the next morning for a trip to a second hand bookstore that we both love.  Nothing like being friends with another reader.  After a lot of browsing and some purchases we headed off to a little cafe near the Metra station to downtown Chicago.  Just a small place but it has the most delicious soups, salads and burgers.  Since it was my BIG day I indulged in a hamburger (ask The Husband, other than the very occasional Quarter Pounders when we are on the road and desperate, he's never seen me order a burger at a restaurant nor do I make them at home).  This one was special...sautéed spinach on a 1/2 pound Angus burger with feta cheese and grilled red onion.  That's all I needed besides my Diet Pepsi, no fries or chips, it was plenty.  I stopped at the grocery on the way home and picked up a container of chicken that's made up fresh everyday and a container of broccoli cheddar soup-- this was our simple no fuss dinner.  Great day. :)



Elsie's first birthday party was coming up on Saturday and although I had contributed a bit by getting the paper items like plates, cups and napkin, at the last minute I wanted to do more.  The party was being held at the home of my son and daughter in law, Jeff and Deirdre.  They have a ton of space.  One day I'll give you a tour.  So I had a few last minute ideas and made the mason jars filled with candy (see above) the day before.  Even more last minute I decided to make some cookies for the kiddies to snack on before cake was served but when I found some cute little glassine bags, I made little favors with them.  I think poor Elsie is in for a heart shaped/borderline Valentines Day theme for many birthdays to come. ;-)



Emily texted me pictures as they set up.  She and Mary Clare are very creative and have so much energy.  I have a fear of standing on chairs after my near fatal fall in June (ha ha ha!), so it was so neat seeing all of the decorations hanging everywhere.  Can you believe you are looking at simply the foyer?  Behind is the open living room, kitchen and dining area.  His home is unbelievable.  


The hearth was decorated with cute pictures of Elsie on doilies as well as a framed pictures for each of her 12 months in our lives.  I can't remember how it was before her!



Beautiful cake and I love how you can now get the separate one for the birthday girl/boy.  That's simply the sweetest part, watching them dip their chubby little fingers into the first really sweet treat they've ever had.  Isn't that cake precious?  Peggy contributed this.  



Here are the proud parents and grandparents around our girl...


...and another I just saw in one of our shared family albums on my phone, a great picture of my kids and their loves.  Clockwise:  Elsie, Abby., Mary Clare, Kevin, Mike, Emily, Tom, Jeff & Deirdre. 


Finally a picture of me and our birthday girl.  I posted this on FB and IG so if you are tired of seeing it, apologies.  Neither of us will ever be this young again...lol!  We really had a great time.  Friends, family...this little girl has a lot of love all around her.  Again, it's hard to imagine life before her and it make me look forward to our family expanding even more, soon I hope!!! ;-)

We had a quiet day today.  Abby was here for the party and left to go home and then The Husband and I slipped out for dinner.  We've been doing that quite a bit I think recently in spite of my claims to the contrary in my last post (!!!).  I just know that we never have much time together during the week.  He works long days and I really like to create good meals for us in the evening.  He likes to read in bed and go to sleep early and I like to stay up until at least after the 10:00 news.  But I really need some getting out and with temps consistently in the 30's of late, I'm feeling a little housebound.  

We are working on our 2016 Travels (I feel really important wording it that way as we usually don't go far or long).  I am really excited about trip to Vancouver in April, The Husband is receiving an award for a paper he wrote with a doctor/colleague and it's very exciting, I'm so proud.  We are pencilling in a lot of sightseeing.  Stay tuned.  We hope to get to our place in Asheville in June and I need to map out a fun route to take in some new states/cities/towns/ to see along the way.  The lakehouse will fill our weekends soon and then we will take our usual 2 weeks stay in August which I know will be very busy.  Hopefully we can get away to some of the  Lake Michigan shore towns for some change of scenery.  Yet, the lakehouse will be perfect enough.  I sometimes wonder how Milo and Layla will feel to be back inside and out.  Work has been going on for over 8 weeks now and is moving along quickly.  In my next post I'll share some of the things I've picked out for the new kitchen, bath and loft area.  

Thanks for taking the time to read this post (if you are still here with me).  I may have been long winded about the party but if you know me well, then you know that family is something I hold very close to my heart.  I'm fortunate to have a big one but no matter the size, we all have a lot to be grateful for...love and perfect moments spent together.  :)

See you soon!

Jane x

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

SOME SHARES OF MY HOME, A FEW RECIPES AND CELEBRATIONS


It's raining cats and dogs and we have thunder and lightening.  Wow...February 2?  Since it's been a really quiet, lazy day here in Blondieville, it feels sort of cozy hearing the rain on the roof, the distant thunder and trying to see out of the rain spattered windows.  Great day to stay in, turn the lamps on low and have soup for lunch.  I took a shower and jumped right back into a pair of p.j.'s.  The afternoon went by quickly reading my book and a few magazines on my bed.  

We had a really great weekend.  I have a birthday coming up so The Husband and I went out to a Louisiana Cajun style restaurant that has been here forever.  We really had a ball, just the two of us.  The place is lively, noisy and so fun.  It was also decorated for Mardi Gras so that was very festive.  The Husband had trout and I had soft shell crab.  Tomorrow is my actual birthday and he came home just a little while ago and wants to take me to my favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner tonight as he is working late tomorrow.  With the rain and the fact that I'm in my p.j.'s, I could easily just stay on my laptop watching the news.  We have really cut back on having dinner out and ordering food in.  I, personally, don't go to fast food restaurants.  There's nothing I can eat on the menu that's good for me other than salads and I can make those at home.  Unfortunately we are tempted by all of the restaurants around us that deliver anything from their menu from a burger to a steak...and with all the sides.  Still, we've found by plugging along and going out just once in a great while, we can indulge in some of the better restaurants.  But I digress.  The restaurant we are going to tonight is known for it's gourmet Mexican food.  Here is a link.  Check out the menu. ***



While we are on the subject of food, I wanted to share a great soup I made last week that had The Husband swooning.  I have been Pinning cauliflower recipes like mad, it is so versatile and low in carbs which I try very hard to avoid.  I adapted this big time from a recipe for cauliflower chowder.  I wanted something creamier.  It's very rich and filling and I toasted some thick slices of bread (for the man), with a little olive oil and garlic.  

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

4 slices bacon
3 T butter
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c flour
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 c milk
1 small head of cauliflower cut away from the stem
1 bay leaf
s & p

Cook 4 slices of bacon in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, set aside.  In the same pot melt the butter.  Add the carrots and celery and sauté until just tender/crisp, 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook one additional minute.

Add the flour to the pot and whisk continuously about 1 minute until it starts to brown.  Add the chicken broth a bit at a time, whisking all the while and scraping the pieces from the bottom of the pot.  Add the milk, cauliflower and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil and then adjust heat to  low simmer and cook covered 1/2 hour.  Remove the bay leaf and let the soup cool a bit.  Then puree with an immersion blender (which I used), or a standard blender until smooth.  A food processor will work, too.  Serve in bowls topped with the crumbled bacon bits you've reserved.  You may want to reheat it a bit in the pot just before serving.  This is a great 'make ahead' soup.  Serves 4.

I hope you enjoy this soup.  It is stick-to-your-ribs comfort food soup.  If you don't puree it, serve it like a chowder.  With some good bread it is a perfect winter meal.



If this isn't the truth---it's not so easy to find things to post about in the dead of winter.  Would you care to see a photo of a snowplow going down my street?  Hear of all the movies I've caught on the LMN channel?  How despite running a humidifier night and day I still have dustballs the size of Texas?  Yep, sad posting material.  I take so many pictures outside in the summer, I decided to take a stroll around the Ponderosa indoors the other day.  I don't share many pics of our family room.  It really should get used more.  See the TV above in the sort of entertainment unit?  Well, that is actually a closet and the wood surround is just a thin wood front that pops off.  Ingenious, right?  Never mind that black speaker, The Husband thought surround sound would help me hear better but it actually makes me jump out of my seat.  Loud booms are amplified so loudly it sounds like a plane has crashed into our house!! lol!



This is the opposite side of the room, the sofa facing the entertainment unit.  Very comfy and laid back. A perfect place for napping.  The windows look out into the shady backyard and in the summer it feels like you are in a cozy birds nest.  So, do you have any rooms to share that maybe you don't use a lot but have some neat features?



I posted this on Instagram (I sometimes can't remember what I put on my blog and what I've posted on IG).  I thought this was so funny--I see it all the time.  I spend my evenings in the den working on my laptop, maybe watching TV or reading.  After dinner is cleaned up and I'm all cleaned up (as in face washed and clean p.j.'s on), I head in here with the dogs trailing behind.  They each have a chair and a little throw.  While I'm fiddling with my bedtime stuff and looking for my slippers, I see Milo patiently waiting.  It's the winding down of the day for him, too.  Last week I came out of the bedroom with my phone in hand and was able to capture a picture.  This sums up the idea of a faithful dog.  Their lives are based on habit.  They know what we should be doing when we don't even know!  



I was reading a magazine and I can't remember which one, but it was extolling the virtues of turnips.  My experience with turnips is adding them to soups and stews.  That's it.  They are somewhat tasteless and I remember some of our friends at the lake including slices of them as part of veggie trays to dip into...well, a dip.  This however,  is a cool recipe...very quick.  It has a great, subtle flavor that may have you and your family/guests thinking they are eating rather different but better french fries.  You will thank me once you've made it.  Truly.

Turnip French Fries

2 large turnips 
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 T cayenne pepper
1 T paprika
1 t nutmeg

Peel and slice the turnips in quarters, then slice into medium to thin pieces, much like 'steak fries'.  See picture above.  Place them in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and give it all a good toss.  Spread evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 1/2 hour, flipping halfway.  Season with salt before serving if you wish.


I know many of you are fans of the late Gladys Taber.  I had heard a bit about her here and there, her love of simple life.  A life in a sweet country cottage surrounded by land, her gardens, her pups and a love of recording her days and years.

I finally asked my friend Dewena, where do I start?  The woman wrote over 50 books before she passed away at eighty.  Stillmeadow Seasons is what she recommended and I received it the other day from Amazon and I simply can't put it down.  I've never been so caught up in descriptive writing like this---in fact I usually prefer a lot less description and have a  "get right to the point" penchant.  Not this time.  I left the book on the table near my reading chair and The Husband picked it up.  It's a used 1st edition and he adores anything with a bit of history.  So thank you Dewena! :)  I can't wait to get back to it.  Please leave something in your comments as to how you might know of Gladys Taber and her books.  Which have you read and could recommend?

As a little inspiration and something I can surely identify with at this time in my life and with a birthday tomorrow, this is the beginning of a paragraph I ironically came across today in this book by Gladys Taber.

"I do not actually feel a year older on my birthday, now coming up on the clock face of time.  I only feel a sense of the value of the moments, hours, and days that are yet mine, and now and then a deep and passionate wish to do as well by them as is in me"

                     Gladys Taber

A Happy Week to all!!

Jane x

***  Well, the Husbands persistence in going out on this miserable rainy night to celebrate my birthday had an underlying motive...



Clockwise:  Elsie, Kevin, Mary Clare, Jeff, The Husband, Emily, Tom, Abby & Moi.  Yay!  And Elsie is now walking like a champ.  Her 1st birthday party is Saturday and I will fill you in on all of the details. :)

Monday, January 25, 2016

A GREAT APPETIZER, AREA RUGS & LAKEHOUSE UPDATE


Are we ready for a new week?  I bet those of you on the eastern coast and any of us wanting to fly here or there are very happy to welcome better weather and sigh of relief.  We are okay here in the Midwest...temps are still in the upper 20's or mid 30's and that feels warmer than last week when we dipped down below zero.  Ah, the weather.  What a great topic of conversation.  But if I sound callous, please know I feel very badly for anyone who suffered in any way due to the blizzards.  

I was asked by a few people how to make the little prosciutto puff pastry appetizers that I shared earlier this month--it was something I made for my niece's baby shower.  It is very simple and quick but I recommend you make it shortly before you serve them or keep them in an oven covered with foil set at about 200 degrees just to keep them from getting chewy.  

*Prosciutto  Puffs*

1 sheet puff pastry
1 cup Butter Flavored Crisco
4 oz.  prosciutto, cut into 24 rectangles
2 T olive oil

Lay the sheet of puff pastry on a flat surface.  With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut vertically and horizontally to make 24 rectangles.  Heat up the Crisco in a deep pan with sides over medium high heat.  Drop 5 pieces of the pastry in at a time (be careful not to splatter).  With tongs, turn the pieces over after 1 minute and then remove from the oil after 30 seconds and place on a surface lined with paper towels.  Continue until you have finished with all of the pastry.  Brush each piece with a dab of olive oil and then place a slice of prosciutto on each.  Ta Da!  Simple, easy and very 'gourmet-ish'! 



I've been wanting a new area rug for our bedroom for a long time and I've really been loving the Moroccan style shags I've seen here and there.  When I started to price them I nearly passed out.  I think the high prices might be because they are hand tufted.  I found this on Rugs USA but it was way beyond my budget.  I signed up for emails then lo and behold, this baby went on sale.  Please know I'm not being compensated at all.  It is just a great company with exceptional sales and the rug arrived quickly and was wrapped perfectly.  

It's a gorgeous soft shag.  Very, very soft.  Milo and Layla were literally rolling on it.  The Husband is quite fussy about rugs (he hates the jute rug I have in the den) and he loves this.



I was so happy with the sale I couldn't help but jump on another one, this for Abby's old room, our new guest room.  I'm far from finishing it but I felt the rug gave me a bit more inspiration as far as curtains and blinds.  I have an old wicker dresser on the side of the bed that I want to replace with a nightstand and then I can move the bed over a bit.  Very small rooms in our old house.  Ugh.  Again, this is a sort of Moroccan type pattern but it's a softer sort of plush feel unlike the shag I bought.  A bit of a layered density.  What's really nice is both rugs can be interchanged as they are the same size.  We just simply can't say which one we love more. 



Abby came 'home' Friday for the weekend.  She's fighting a miserable cold; coughing, congestion, sore throat, her head aching.  I went with her to a small clinic Saturday morning and hopefully she'll improve quickly with antibiotics and a nasal spray.  Afterward we went to Panera for lunch.  It's nice to catch up with your children outside of the house.  It's rare that I get to do that with Abby.  Her schedule is full right now with teaching and coaching basketball.  She leaves the house at 6 a.m. and sometimes doesn't get home until after 9 p.m.  She might have gotten sick from being run down.

I sometimes feel guilty that I have the time to do what I please, go where I want to go and manage my own time.  I see my kids hitting the ground at 6 a.m. and constantly on the go.  I feel I've earned my free time yet I miss having that energy level, that purpose and drive.  During the winter I get very lazy and bored with a lot of things that usually give me pleasure.  Even writing this post-I'm having a problem getting my thoughts together.  I don't think it's that lack of sunlight depression, it's more a reaction to being cooped up and feeling a little lonely.  Does anyone else feel this way?



This brings a smile to my face, a cute little picture of Elsie having her first experience in the snow.  Can't you just eat her up?  We haven't had a lot of snow here and not many really cold days but for the deep freeze last week so it's great to see this little one have some fun.  Can you believe her 1st birthday is just a couple of weeks away?  Time really goes by so fast.  



I haven't made much mention of the lakehouse.  We are in about our 8th week of work there, most of it was demolition.  The sub floor is now there when previously we looked directly into the crawlspace and The Husband couldn't even step in to look around on his last visit.  So now it's there and work has begun on the staircase.  It appears we are working from the bottom up.  We've made a lot of changes, the stairs will be stained dark and the risers will be white.  And we chose black iron spindles.  I've picked out my kitchen cabinets, appliances and light fixtures.  It really has been fun, at least when The Husband and I are in agreement. ^^



This is a partial view of the Great room with the kitchen on the right.  It feels so odd to look at our home this way.  I'm very happy with the progress and barring any complications this might be completed by April.  Then it's the arduous task of moving back in.  I have no idea how quickly we can do that.  

Emily and I recently spent about an hour and a half choosing paint colors for every room in the house.  I am doing mostly seaside colors; creams, tans, blues and grays.  For our loft I'm getting brave and doing an accent wall in navy and the other walls a light beige.  We have a sofa that fits perfectly in this small space from This End Up that goes back 25 years.  Do any of you remember that company?  Its great that we can order new cushions and fabric very inexpensively and I have fabric samples ordered in various shades and patterns of blue.  I'm so excited to create a cozy area perfect for getting out of the sun, relaxing and enjoying a little bit of a nautical vibe.

So this is it.  Last week was a mix of slow and busy.  I mentioned in my last post I had so many appointments.  I got my new hearing aid---Yay for being able to hear out of the right ear again!  And I met with a specialist for my arm.  According to the new x-rays and a wonderful doctor, I learned that my pain may be a reaction to a small bone chip just a tiny little space away from the bone, like a little asteroid.  She also feels that I'm restricting motion because of the pain and that has become a vicious cycle. I have to start using the arm and wrist instead of babying it.  I declined physical therapy for the time being.  I'm now spending every non active moment massaging and moving my wrist and arm at the elbow in a way that makes me feel the pain,  it's the only way to stretch the muscles and ligaments.  I slather on some sweet smelling lotion and work away at it.  I hope I feel better soon (and I do already!).


I just started this book over the weekend.  It's been out for awhile now.  I read the author's previous book, The Husband's Secret (bad title, even Ms. Moriarty admitted in an interview on GoodReads).  It was a bestseller and I gobbled it up-maybe you've read it and this one as well.  At 500 pages, it's keeping me busy.  

Well, I have a few piles of laundry to fold and a run to the grocery store is needed as Milo and Layla are out of their favorite bones.  The things I do for my firkids.   


Stay warm and cozy.  We have a lot of time to pass until warm weather!

Jane x

Sunday, January 17, 2016

WINTER DECOR CHANGES & LIFE IN BLONDIEVILLE DURING THE 2016 DEEP FREEZE!


Hi!  I think I've made good time in coming back (as if all of you have been waiting with bated breath).  I mentioned in my last post that perhaps I should make my posts shorter and do them more often.  I was really happy with those of you who commented that things are fine the way they are.  A relief, I just don't know if I could deliver anything less.  I'm back just five days since my last post and yet I feel I can go on forever, but I'll try to spare you.

After I took apart of all my Winter Wonderland mantlescape  I was left with something more barren than any sort of snow covered landscape.  Zippo.  Nada.  For days.  Once in awhile when I went downstairs to do laundry, I'd roam around my little hoarding room but just couldn't conceive what I could do with this huge mantel.  I seriously have not felt any creativity or imagination lately.  I just started to bring things up, beginning with my favorite pieces and then a mix of shapes, sizes and a bit of rustic and more refined.  Can you see that in my gold gilt framed prints and then the pitchers?  I really love to combine things which The Husband refers to as "my weird and not normal" side.  Anyway, I like it and I'm not going to fiddle with this again till spring.



This cabinet is somewhat of a challenge for me, too.  Mostly because of the high side and low side.  Does this sound crazy?  I usually stick with the tried and true but this time I added the galvanized French flower pails and added dried roses from my son's wedding in August.  A woven basket and pretty candle container on the upper part.  



I stepped away for this shot.  It makes a little more sense--the height.  I took these pics in the evening but it always looks better this way.  I'm silly, I don't know why I'm rambling like this.  Do you have a space that you struggle with?  I'm just relieved I finished it up.  I seriously had nothing anywhere for over a week.  I think my family declared me clinically insane.  Even the kids that think I have clutter everywhere.  




I had my granddog, Tulo, overnight Friday.  We ordered pizza and made Mickey Mouse pancakes Saturday morning.  The poor guy is just huge.  Although he isn't supposed to jump on people, he sometimes loses all sensibility (like when we make brief eye contact with him), and when he does, you need to grab hold of anything in sight.  He is a moose.  My house is not big at all and his tail can knock over everything and anything I have on my coffee and end tables. But we love him, he looks forward to running around with Milo, finding all the dog bones mine hide away, and jumping on beds and furniture---something he's not allowed to do at home.  Isn't that what being at grandma's house is all about?  


For a dog that's not allowed on furniture at home, he sure knows how to get cozy here!  We love to spoil him.


Abigail left a crate full of books she told me to donate when she moved out in February.  I'm so on top of things I just never did.  The other day I was feeding Nina who we keep in Abby's old room/guest room.  Nina is our pet vulture, I mean parrot.  She hates everyone but The Husband.  She is a total hussy, especially since I'm the one who feeds her and risks having my fingertips bit off. Anyway, I digress.  I found this book in the crate and read it in two sittings.  If you like suspense and really good writing, crime and well developed characters in a small town, this is a book I highly recommend.  The Husband is currently reading it.  I'm really happy to be back in a book reading mode.  I try to read at least 1-2 hours a day, which is nothing compared to a few years ago.  Being on my laptop so much and also watching 'new to me TV', I have to set aside the time.  Reading is knowledge and so important, especially to someone like me who has always treasured getting lost in a great story.  Have you've read any good books you'd like to recommend?



I won a giveaway from Kris at Junk Chic Cottage.  This is called a 'wine purse'.  It's insulated inside and has a clever little zip pocket as you can see which comes with it's own little corkscrew.  I had never heard of such a thing but I have no doubt that I'll figure out how to use it. ^^  Thank you, Kris.



In my 2015 Year Review, I failed to mention that as of March I had the wonderful opportunity to begin writing for a newspaper that serves a large portion of southwest Michigan and northern Indiana on a monthly basis.  I love writing about decorating, gardening, cooking and pretty much the same sort of things I do on my blog.  I was really honored to take up, err...have the opportunity to write two full pages for the December issue.  I worked a good week on it; one day writing, 6 days proofreading! lol!  The Husband kept asking me why this was taking me so long.  When it came in the mail he looked at the two pages and said, "Amazing".  I was so chuffed.  Some of you had asked about this recent endeavor so I tried my best to take a little picture of the article.  I was really complimented when I received a nice card from the editors over Christmas with a generous gift certificate to a wonderful steakhouse near the lakehouse.  Great people.  

I also failed to mention the two trips The Husband and I took with our friends, Cindy and Dan, to Door County, Wisconsin in May and Cedarburg, Wisconsin in November.  How did I miss that fun?  I adore Cindy, we met through blogging as I'm sure you know.  So I wish I had planned my posts a little better.  Love ya, Cindy, and we look forward to visiting you this year in your neck of the woods!!  :)



A quick dinner tonight.  I love fajitas because there are so many ways to make them and I love the combo of meat and veggies, perfect low carb food.  I usually do them with slices of sirloin but tonight I sautéed a mix of Chorizo sausage and lean ground beef.  I love to pile on the onion, green pepper and tomatoes along with lettuce, cheese and guacamole, so I can't even begin to fold it up in a tortilla.  Never do this on a first date.  Definitely a sloppy affair.  

It was a bit of a slow week here in Blondieville.  We've had a lot of cold weather  and last night we slipped into the single digits.  Right now we are at 1 degree, and I appreciate it's not -1 degree as somehow that sound so much worse when we go negative.  As much as we Northern states detest cold weather, we love to milk it...I really do think that.  The shock value.  I ran to the grocery store this afternoon.  It was 3 degrees.  Doesn't that make me sound so brave?!  Geez, 30 seconds from my warm car to the inside of a well heated store.  Came home, pulled into the garage and carried my  bags into a warm house.  Whew!   Still, it's extremely dangerous for anyone who has to be out for a prolonged period of time and I stand near the window when I let the dogs out to do their thing to let them back in immediately,  Layla's little paws are the size of my fingertips, can you imagine them on the frozen ground?  Very dangerous in spite of how I make light of it.  

I do have a busy week ahead.  Did I mention Milo was able to pluck one of my hearing aids off an end table (and I know better)? Thankfully, my audiologist and manufacturer were able to save the wiring, etc., so I'm going Tuesday to have the sound adjusted in both (the new one and old) and I will be as good as new (well almost--I'll never hear like you guys but I'm grateful for what I have).  Then I have the dreaded female sort of appointment Wednesday and will have to schedule my mammogram.  How painful is that?  And on Friday, I finally made an appointment with a specialist for my arm.  I feel like  I broke it yesterday.  I simply want to know if this is as good as it gets or if there is something that can be done.  That's the long and short of it.

So as you can see, posting more frequently doesn't mean a shorter post.  Ah, well...that's just the way it is. :)

Jane x



Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A BABY SHOWER, GREAT RECIPES & BROADWAY IN CHICAGO



It feels good to be back.  I've spent the past few days visiting you guys and it's so nice to hear how all of us are moving on in the New Year.  I love that feel of organizing, cleaning everything up and having time to relax.  It may be reading, relaxing in the morning with a cup of coffee in a cozy spot or doing something creative like knitting, crocheting or sewing but I love reading these posts.  I'm happy to have free time to sit back and chill now that I've got the tree down to the curb (sniff, sniff), and all the decorations packed away and downstairs.  Now I have to shop the house to do a little spiffing up here and there but right now I'm just a little lazy.

I wish my year had started out a bit slower but similar to last January, we had a shower to pull off, this time for Jennifer.  She is married to our nephew Flip, who is the son of Phil and Jean.  You remember Jean passed away in August but she knew, thankfully, that she had a grandchild on the way.  For that I'm grateful.  My brother in law, Phil, is doing well, he needs a little company and we plan to do a few lunches here and there.  He had been retired but decided to go back to part time teaching (he's a university professor).  He's so excited to have this grandson on the way.

We had the shower at Emily's home, it was a smaller group.  Emily made these beautiful sandwiches and I have to get the recipes as they are perfect for a large or smaller groups.  She buys a variety of round artisan breads, each different,  then she piles on various meats, cheeses and toppings.  Pesto adds a nice bite and keeps the sandwiches sort of similar.  She cuts each round into wedges like a pizza.  So, so good.  Another niece, Carolyn, made potato soup. We had a nice cold weather lunch.



I made a rustic sort of salad with a few different types of lettuce and herbs, chickpeas and red onion.  A lemon based vinaigrette was perfect.

For my two appetizers I did a little shish kabob with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves.  I marinated everything in olive oil and Italian herbs overnight.  Great finger food.  The favorite I made was fried rectangles of puff pastry topped with a brush of olive oil and prosciutto.  They were so simple and quick to make.  I know I'll do it again and again.  Try to make it just before your party, the pastry is soft and fluffy then.

   

The theme of the shower was 'Hey Baby Its Cold Outside", and Emily really worked at the decorations which included a lot of snowflakes, a big banner in the window and lots blue.  The little guy is due in early February.  You can see that she framed the invitation.  Jen was very happy and touched.


I mentioned our kids went in together on theatre tickets for The Husband and I as a Christmas gift.   We were so surprised and touched.  They added a gift card to cover a hotel and/or dinner out.  We could have come home, we are only about 25 minutes from downtown Chicago, but it's always fun to stay.  And we do that in February for my birthday so this was a way to get that out of the way! lol!  

I love to do my research so we aren't surprised.  I really dislike walking into an unknown (to us) restaurant and spending good money on mediocre food.  I carefully research every place we go, especially on vacations.  I'm freakish like that.  So I chose a new hotel and it was just okay.  From the 23rd floor we had a gorgeous view of the city.  You can see the room was very clean and modern...



...the bath went off into another direction.  Not bad but a little odd.  I love European style hotels downtown, the Knickerbocker and The Drake are my favorites but I felt we needed to broaden our horizons.  There was a lot to be desired here.  :(  Funny, we ended up at the Knickerbocker later in the evening for drinks and to listen to the jazz band.  


I was really working on a timeline.  Check in to the hotel at 4:00, cocktails in the bar at 4:30, dinner at 5:30 with reservations made several days before, and the play at 7:30 p.m.

Dinner was at the Capital Grille.  The decor was beyond opulent and the food, oh my gosh.  The Husband was very smart in ordering shrimp on a delicious risotto.  But I ordered a steak the size of Texas and could barely eat 1/4 of it.  Given our plans we had no way to get it wrapped to bring with us so it was a sad waste of money.  Lesson learned.  :(



This is what happens when your husband wants to take pictures of you and you totally feel that your 'frizzy from the rain' hair is not up to blog standards (and you know you will want to post it, I was wearing my finest!).  And by the way, all the pictures that night looked like I was wearing my dinner napkin tucked in my top but it was a scarf.  Truly.



The Oriental Theatre goes way back to 1926.  It is breathtaking to see.  This is a view of the lobby.  Wish I could have taken pictures inside with the main floor and two balconies.   I simply can't find the words to describe it.  I've been here many times and I'm always in awe.

I've seen a good share of plays and musicals.  My favorites are 42nd Street and The Lion King.  I actually met Scar from the latter.  Well, not Scar, but the actor who played him (and I've forgotten his name, this was about 12 years ago).  I was walking down a street that ran behind the theatre on my lunch hour when I worked in the city.  I didn't realize this was The Oriental from behind.  'Scar' was on a cigarette break near the back door and although I never approach celebrities or actors, he smiled at me and I walked over.  He was very nice but he did have a sort of edge and I think that made him perfect for this role.  It was a thrill to chat with him.  



The Marquee 

The musical was beautiful and uplifting.  I can't say enough about it.  I was 11 years old when Carole King's album, Tapestry, came out.  We all have our own memories about it and mine are sitting in my best friend's bedroom with the album playing on her record player.  We sang into hairbrushes (our pretend microphones) and imagined that we had long hippy hair, faded blue jeans and boho tops.  The songs were a bit too sophisticated for me but the music was timeless and stayed with me for years to come.  

I never knew that she was such a talented songwriter and that her music went back way before my time, yet such classics that I knew every word.  I was entranced.  The finale when the whole cast was introduced and then broke into I Feel The Earth Move was fantastic.  Everyone stood up and sang and danced.  I looked over my shoulder at the two balconies and I had not only chills up my spine but a lump in my throat.  Very hard to explain but I guess it's what you feel when something of this magnitude touches your  heart.  


Afterwards we walked to an iconic bar nearby.  It was fun but I think it has seen better days! lol!  Also on the way we were able to stop by the building where our Chicago ABC7 nightly news is broadcast live, you can watch through windows from the sidewalk.  I watched part of the 10:00 news and really loved that.  I'm a news junkie so this was really cool for me.  I didn't think you'd like the pics as much as me so I refrained from sharing them.  :)





After our exciting night we headed off the Abby's neighborhood about 15 minutes away the following morning and we did a little shopping with her and her guy, Tom.  It was a lot of fun until a heavy mix of rain and snow started to fall.  We had a really cool lunch at a place that featured artisan beer and an eclectic menu (pizza with dates and feta cheese?).  So much fun.  Here's Tom, The Husband and Abby. 


A good look at the place, The Corridor Bar and Provisions on the Northside of Chicago 

We were rain soaked and trying to keep our spirits up as we walked through the alley on the way to Abby's coach house after lunch.  I was in the middle of belting out Singing In The Rain when I stepped into a huge pothole filled with rainwater.  Down to my knees I fell as both hands were holding shopping bags, leftovers and my purse.  To add insult to injury, my face also dipped into the pothole and was drenched as well as my hair.  I must have looked like the Loch Ness Monster.  In any case, I have two skinned, black and blue knees.  I am ever so grateful that my hands were full and I didn't use that bad arm to break my fall.  I did however, look like a drowned rat! lol!



Switching gears, this is a little snack I made for The Husband and I on Sunday.  I'm full on with my Atkins diet again as of January 1.  It's the only way I lose any weight.  Sweet Potato Fries.  Love them.  No recipe, just a few tips.  Peel and slice, I like them cut like steak fries as they shrink up.  Toss them in a large bowl with a little veggie oil and a bit of salt and paprika.  Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper---this is a key, otherwise they will brown horribly on the bottom and stick.  There you go, perfection.  

All has been going along pretty well since Saturday.  Aside from painful and skinned  knees and a lot of chronic pain in my lower back that always seems to occur around the holidays, I've been good.  Oh, I have to complain about the old broken arm.  Terrible.  I am so confused about it.  My fingers actually hurt when I move them and everything is restricted by the pain.  I can't hold things nor open a simple bottle of water.  The Husband has recommended a great university doctor but I really want someone local.  Not sure what I'll do but I will do something.  This is so crazy.  Calluses, scar tissue...who knows.  It's just not right and since this is my dominant hand and arthritis could be in the future, I want  answers now.

Okay, at the risk this could be called Blondie's Pain Journal, I'll stop.  Next time I want to share a giveaway I recently won and some books I've managed to read in the past week.  And a few things I missed in my Year In Review posts.  I also want to tell you guys that I've finally determined that my posts are just a little too long and drawn out and it's my plan to do shorter and more frequent posts which will make things easier to digest---for lack of a better word.  And I may be able to write a bit more about what I think as opposed to what I do.  

We have had frigid temps here in the Upper Midwest...single digits big time.  It's 5 degrees right now and it will be 1 degree tomorrow morning.  I'm pretty good here, I did some grocery shopping Sunday when it was a mere 25.  I froze but I'm quite used to it.  This is really unpleasant to put it mildly.  I watch my dog babies closely and I'm happy to stay cozy at home. :)

I'll be back soon.  

Jane x

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015 YEAR IN REVIEW PART 2


The New Year is moving at warp speed.  I'm hoping that by the months end I might truly say, "Ahhhhh..time to relax and just do what I want to do...sleep really late, read a lot of books, catch up on magazines, and write at least two blog posts a week.  Maybe organize and clean up a lot of cluttered spaces in my home as well"(okay, scratch that, this is supposed to be about fun).  But you know, just stuff I want to do, not 'have' to do.  But as per usual, I'm filling in spaces on the calendar with appointments and social gatherings.  I have to get tests done that were ordered at my yearly physical in December, new audiology testing, the mammogram...I should just pack a bag and spend a few days in the hospital.  We have friends to meet up with as we were all too busy the past few weeks.  Our Elsie has  her first birthday coming up and a great celebration planned.  I have a birthday coming up, too, but we won't talk about that.  ;-)  So the coming weeks look busy but I have high hopes for some down time after. 

So here is Part 2 of 2015 in review.  I know I do this more for me but I hope you enjoy.  I left you off in June, 2015 in my last post with a broken arm and weeks of miserable physical therapy.  But still, we planned and had a wonderful 4th of July party because in the past we always had one at the lakehouse.  Those celebrations were huge, so many friends and family members that many stayed in a motel nearby.  Great days of boating, swimming, eating grilled foods, homemade salads and appetizers, playing in the sand and a new-found activity---racing kayaks.  We upped the ante by pairing young and old, and guys and girls as teams.  You must use your imagination here, I don't want to hurt feelings.  Yay young and older gals won two years straight!!

So many good times but our backyard 4th party here in the city was fabulous, too.  



Milo is poking thirteen years old with a short stick so I made a Bucket List for him.  It mostly consists of spending a minimum of three hours per day outdoors with me.  A win/win.  If I let him and Layla outside alone, they do their number and then sit on the porch forlornly looking for me to let them in.  When I'm out with them they are happy and frolicking and looking for squirrels.  So we did that a lot this past summer.  My puttering in the garden and reading on the patio makes for some great 'Me' time.  They trot along behind me looking for sticks and sniffing for buried walnuts.  We can learn a lot from dogs.  All they want is to eat, sleep, play and be loved.  Sounds good to me.  



Watching little Elsie grow like a bean sprout was fun in itself.  I had heard the saying, "If I had known grandchildren were so much fun I would have had them first."  So true.  She's a delight.  I am looking pretty ratty here, it was the 4th and I was a crazed woman dealing with thirty guests and a broken arm I didn't realize I had.  And humidity does a number on the hair.  Ouch :)



August was an absolutely perfect time to get away and off we went to my niece's wedding in Louisville.  My brother has lived down there forever and it's always fun to visit.  We took advantage of it this year by staying a few extra days but you might just want to read the post.  Jaime and Garrett live in Brooklyn.  Jaime is a writer and very successful.  Garrett is just so fun, I think he and Jaime are a perfect match.  One of these days we'll get to NYC and visit them.  They said their vows on a hotel rooftop overlooking the Ohio River.  The reception was wonderful and The Husband and I met up with so many relatives we normally don't see.  It was a fabulous night.  



My brother, John and me.  He retired from teaching a few years ago and then went back to administration a few days a week...I guess golf year round is pretty much non-existent in their parts!  lol! He was also a baseball and football coach for many years and inducted into the Indiana Hall of Fame.  May I brag a little?  And I know you won't believe it, but this handsome guy just turned 68.  




A bit blurry but The Husband and I had breakfast with the family the next morning and then went off to explore the different  parts of Louisville.  It was so fun.  A full day of browsing shops and bookstores, stopping here and there for coffee and later some craft beers.  We really had a great time and plan to head back soon.



This was also the year that my baby, Abigail Jane, left home and The Husband and I became empty nesters.  I didn't like it one bit and still don't.  I would gladly welcome all four of our children back home again.  Abby moved to the Northside of Chicago and rents a coach house with three girlfriends.  Thankfully, she comes home a few times month.  We turned her room into a guest room and I joke, she's our only guest!  We're very proud of her, she teaches high school English in a predominately Hispanic school, that's difficult, I'm sure.  And it's hard to believe sometimes that she's just a few years out of college herself and preparing her students for the same.  She does however, mentor so many young kids who identify with her and this fall she started coaching girls basketball.  Where she gets her energy, well, it's not from me! lol!



August was another huge time in our lives when our oldest son married the love of his life, Deirdre.  It was a beautiful wedding(you can read about it here), and they are truly perfect for each other.  Deirdre is so very sweet and fun.  She has a fantastic career and travels quite a bit.  And she's so great for Jeff.  He's a ball of energy and has a very successful business of his own. He recently started hiking big time as well as mountain climbing.  He has goals for some large expeditions in various places next summer.  I'm very proud but a mother worries, of course. 



Near the end of September The Husband and I planned a little trip winding down to our place in Asheville, NC.  We love the South and rather than just flying into Asheville, we like to come in from another area and then do a road trip to see various cities and towns along the way.  This year we flew into Nashville.  We loved it.  The best part was staying in a little log cabin in Franklin, TN., just outside Nashville.  The town is known for its great downtown shopping area filled with various shops and restaurants.  Our little cabin was on a huge acreage of land once owned by Wynona Judd and then Sheryl Crow.  We were really star-struck!! And it was a really cute place.  You can read more in my September 2015 post.



Driving through Tennessee was a beautiful experience.  The Husband must have exclaimed every five minutes, "Look at all of these fences!"  For some reason he thought that was unbelievable.  For me, I never really saw anything inside of the fences but maybe for a few horses.  No cattle or sheep or goats or chickens...can someone explain (this is the Midwestern girl in me talking)?   But the fences were beautiful as was the landscape.  We stayed in Nashville, Franklin and Gatlinburg.  I refrain from talking about Gatlinburg only because of my never ending fear of bears which was always at the forefront of my mind.  And I was so excited to find a rustic cabin in the woods to stay at and then never ventured outside of it once I saw how remote and wild it was.  Well...wild to me.   Ha!



Fall is always welcome here.  I did my share of decorating, much of which I posted.  We love autumn here in the upper Midwest and always hope for an Indian Summer.  I think we got it.  That and a very rainy and mild winter so far.  



Granddaughter Elsie grows like a weed, she's at such a fun stage now.  She's almost walking.  I can't take enough pics.   When I'm with her memories of holding my own young daughters come flooding back.  Things come full circle and I'm constantly amazed how life has so many twists and turns...just when you think the best of times are in the past, your heart awakens to new joys. 



We had a full house for Thanksgiving dinner and an even more full house for dessert.  That's how our  family works.  Yes, I get stressed out but I think most of us would with 15 to 20 guests. Still, it's such a great time.  This is a small part of out table.  As it turned out, we did a sort of buffet and everyone sat where they wanted.  Much more informal and perfect for our large group.  



And finally, Christmas.  I can't believe that we ultimately bought our tree and decorated the fireplace just five days before the 25th.  I've never been this late in the game.  I simply can't point my finger at any one thing but I do know that for once, I wasn't racing against time, I was looking for the right time.  That made it okay.  I kept things at a minimum although I don't necessarily call that a victory cry.  Sometimes I think we have to stop the over-glorification of 'simple', 'uncluttered', 'frugal'.  We  set the bar too high sometimes and make those who actually don't have issues with those things feel inferior.  Let's be fair and good friends and just do what we love to do.  :)





Another picture of Elsie.  I was reading the new issue of The Dr. Oz magazine and he was writing about welcoming his second grandchild.  How it was a blank slate; millions of paths, choices and opportunities for this grandson of his.  And that led to his thoughts on what we adults do.  We have goals and plans to be our best, to reach our potential, yet we mistakenly feel defeated by worrying about the hard work...the actual 'doing'.  And worry we do!   So sometimes we never get past that desire or goal because we fear defeat and that's sad.  We have to start somewhere and I think the pain of regretting we didn't try is beyond and worse than the pain we feel when we push ourselves out of our comfort zones.  Hey---Dr. Oz and and I are old pals! lol!

I was so surprised and I'm not sure why except for maybe some sort of brain fog from the holiday happenings, that I never made up a 'word' for 2016, nor a resolution.  So many of us say we don't make resolutions, and that's okay.  I simply do it because I'm the sort who likes to look forward, not back.  My future is a clean slate and I can flow along like I'm on my kayak or I can make out a plan.  Either way, I'm moving forward and that's just perfect for me.  I guess right now I'm just floating...I usually have goals and I make concrete, old fashioned written down plans to achieve them.  But I only had a vague idea this year, again, no word or well thought out plan.  I'd love to wrap this up by saying I do know why it's been difficult,  that it's 'this' or 'that', but I'm just feeling right now that the clouds are going to part soon and I'll have some clarity.  Can I just say that I'm going to chip away at it as I go along?  That goals are a beautiful thing but right now my goal is to give myself a break from goals?  

In a few months I'll be at the lake in Michigan in the warm sun, paddling around the anchored boat with Milo on a floatie while The Husband fishes for bass.  We'll grill hamburgers and steaks and drink Blue Moon under the stars.  We'll bring the gardens back to life (and I'll wrestle with the wisteria!).  Here in the city we will finally redo the wretched chipped  porch and driveway.  I'll add to my perennial garden beds and we may get around to cleaning up 30 years of junk in the basement.  And that glorious home in Asheville?  A trip or two and hopefully visits with the lovely people I've met through blogging that live there....amazing, the best and in a place we never thought we'd return to.  Let it be learned...anything is possible.

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 and that Part 2 hasn't bored you to tears!  I do it for myself so very  much...I love to see at a glance what the year was like.  

Now I feel very behind because we are well into the first week of January and I'm reminiscing, but I'll give all of you time to read and fully comment and then I'll bring you up to date on what's happening around here now.


Love and Happy New Year!!!

Jane x