Monday, July 27, 2015

LAZY SUMMER DAYS, WEDDING CRAZINESS, A RECIPE & ELSIE LOVE

 
Wow, I've been gone a long time.  Summer is flying by and in spite of all the activity going on here in Blondieville, I feel pretty good about everything.  Have I maybe accepted that my life will always be a whirlwind?   I do grab my moments of relaxation every afternoon.  Maybe an hour in the early afternoon when the sun isn't on the patio, or later--about 5:00 when I have dinner ready to pop on the grill and the dogs and I can relax outside with a glass of wine and a good book before The Husband rolls in from work.  So peaceful.  Looking from my patio west, the sun goes down behind our fence and the houses beyond.  I've been capturing this elusive 'Golden Hour' and plan to have my good camera at the ready next time I'm out.  I love this picture...Milo, looking so, well...Milo-like.  Doing just this is #1 on his Bucket List.  Can you see why?   Psssst...he is in his 'squirrel catching' mode.
 
 
 
Yay!  I have some Early Girls plumping up here.  SO excited.  I've enlisted the help of The Husband in helping me to turn this huge pot about half a turn every few weeks and I think this is a big reason why the tomato plants are doing so well in the container.  If you do any container planting (and man, that's the way to go for herbs and tomatoes and anything you love but don't have the time/room for), rotating the pots is essential for a good dose of sun everywhere.  I actually had some wind damage from a recent storm,  I used one of those tiki torch stakes to tie this baby up.  But the plants were fine...with just three I don't have much to lose but I would still cry! ;-)
 
 
 
 
I love that I can plan my days and I have plenty to keep me busy unless I decide to play hooky.  But I really love to get out, just for a change of scenery--it refreshes me.  So hmmmm...this week.  I've been making plans for the wedding of my brother's daughter down in Louisville on August 1.  I haven't been there in a long time and haven't seen my brother and his wife in over two years since Emily's wedding.  It's going to be a great 4 day getaway.  I spent some time last week shopping.  What is it about a trip---even a short one, to make you reevaluate your bras and undies?  Say what? The fates have kept me from having a car accident as the paramedics would surely abandon me the minute they saw my ragged underthings.  Really.  So I combined a recent shopping trip looking for things I needed for next weekend as well as Jeff's wedding which is in a few weeks   A strapless bra plus clear straps...sounds crazy right?  The lady that fitted me for my "Mother of the Groom" dress advised me that cups sewn into the gown would not give me support, as in I would sag.  Well, I can tell all of you something not too surprising, if you are sagging you don't have a whole lot of hope in holding the girls up in a strapless bra.  I think a strapless bra on a large breasted woman is simply a ploy to get one to look at her new high heels, because that is where you will find her fancy ass bra.  Anyway, I have an arsenal of 'support' pieces that have probably cost more than the dress.   Did I mention Spanx?  Oh, yes.  A good reason to get a part time job at a 7/11 before the big function. 
 
 
Recycled Sangria bottle with Hosta blooms
 
I'll give you a break on the wedding stuff for now because life is really wonderful if you pay no attention to it.  Just kidding.  My arm hurts!!!  I honestly only took the pain pills when I desperately needed them...not so much that I'm a purist but it cuts the pain so much that I want to trim the bushes or wash my car, and obviously that doesn't help the healing process.  Anyway, for the past two weeks I have been suffering from hives all over my neck and chest.  The itching seemed to come from inside and nothing topical on it would help.  Then I realized that the Tylenol with codeine was a new-to-me culprit.  Ahhhhh...relief from the hives.  And my pain?  Not much there to help, but we have to choose our battles. 
 
 
 
 

 
We had a BBQ at my sister in law's today for family who came in from Kansas City.  So much fun.  Here is our Elsie with Emily who's giving her multitudes of kisses (could you resist?).  We have reached a consensus that she does look like Kevin.  But not Kevin as he looked as a baby---the "now" Kevin.  And a "female" Kevin.  I have to get a pic of the two of them soon to illustrate this fact.  I have to again say, this little gal is so sweet tempered---never cries and loves everyone (and everyone reaches out to hold her---we should have raffles).  I can't hold her with the monster cast (which may I say does not look or smell too pretty after 16 days), but I get in her face all the time to make crazy faces and noises and remind her I'm grandma.

 
Long on time and short on one arm, I found a great dip to bring to the BBQ.  This is healthy and was a huge hit.  It does spend 10 minutes in the oven to make things meld so you may want to consider this in the warmer weather.  Heck--stick it on your grill if you don't want the heat in your kitchen.  I felt it worked out great and then it was served as/is an hour later, it does not have to be hot.  Give it a shot---I had fun playing with the recipe. 
 
White Bean, Asiago Cheese & Onion Spread
 
 
1 15 oz. can Cannellini beans
1 c. shredded Asiago cheese 
2 c. diced yellow onion
1/4 c. plain Greek yogurt
4 t. olive oil divided
2 T. minced garlic
2 t. dried rosemary or 2 T fresh
Salt and pepper to taste
 
1)  Saute onions in 2 t. olive oil over medium heat for about 8 minutes or until browned.  Set aside. 
 
2)  In food processor combine beans and yogurt.  Pulse until smooth.  Add S&P, 2 t. olive oil, garlic and rosemary and 1/3 c. Asiago cheese.  Pulse until smooth and creamy.
 
3)  Transfer bean mixture to a shallow ovenproof dish.  Top with half the onions, half the remaining cheese and then repeat.  Bake at  450 for ten minutes.  Serve hot or at room temp with crackers, toasted bread or crudités.  YUM!!!!
 
I will be back soon, pinky promise.  I am supposed to get my cast off Friday morning and then literally take off for Louisville.  Say a prayer that the X-rays are good!  I will try to get a post out before Thursday.   Have a wonderful week, friends!
 
Jane xx

Friday, July 17, 2015

WEDDING BELL RUMBLES & SOME GRILL RECIPES

 
Hello!  So glad to be back.  It's been a pretty uneventful week just hanging out at home mostly.  Trying to sneak outside for some fresh air when it's not raining, which is most of the time.  Some of my plants seem a little bit stunted and my lawn has some brown spots.  I think it's just a lack of sun since I truly baby my grass after losing the whole lawn to grubs a few years ago.  Not being an expert I can only guess that lack of sun causes problems the same way lack of water does.  Thankfully, some of my tried and true flowers are holding on, like these petunias.  Very simple and I thought they looked interesting against the brick of my home. 
 
 
 
These bloomed a week or so ago.  I neglected to add them to my garden journal and so I'm taking a guess that they are Stock.  No?
 
 
 
Abigail made a huge container of Sangria for our 4th of July party and it was out of sight.  She suggested that I save the cute bottles with their hinged caps for flowers.  Aren't they cool?  I love that she is starting to think that way.  She has started to cook a lot more for her house-mates since she has been on summer break from teaching.  She texts me pictures of her dinners and I'm always a bit amazed that she is coming up with some really delicious meals since I've really only seen her do eggs and sandwiches when she lived here.  And it's sort of funny, she and Emily now take pictures of food, much the way we do for our blogs.  At one time they cackled and giggled when I did that.  Hmmm...
 
I actually had a great day with both of them on Monday.  I have probably mentioned before that the two get along like oil and water.  Very much opposites.  I hoped as they got older they would become closer but that hasn't happened yet and I think it's just a matter of pride and finding it easier to just carry on as usual instead of working it all out.  Habit maybe.  So we hit a mall together and we honestly had fun.  No arguing or drama.  I tried to give them both the same amount of attention (and I think this is what the whole problem stems from).  I flitted back and forth between them in the stores and as we walked through the mall.  It's difficult but I think we are doing better each time it's just the three of us. 
 
I am going for the fitting of my dress for Jeff's wedding next week.  I'm not sure how that is going to work-the sleeves are quite slim and very sheer...I don't know if the one will fit over my cast on the left arm.  I thought about asking my doctor to take it off just for that one day but I know him.  He's sort of a cranky older man and very set in his ways.  Thankfully he's just a specialist, I could never have him as a G.P.  So I'm really worried.  I also have my niece's wedding in Louisville in two weeks.  We leave the day I get the cast off given my fracture has healed.  Say a prayer for me.  I've been fretting over a dress for that wedding as well as a pre-party the night before.  You must know me by now--I overthink everything and just maybe have self confidence issues.  I have searched shop after shop in the malls and online for the perfect dresses.  I think I may have found what I like.  What a headache.  And men.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to just select a suit and tie from the closet and a pair of dress pants and starched shirt and call it a day?  Ugh.  Can't live with them and can't live with them.
 
 

 
Today was miserable with the heat.  Abby came home as she has an event here tomorrow.  She was complaining she wanted something cool and refreshing to nosh on.  I was ready to do my weekly shopping so once I was at the grocery store I remembered I had a nice English cucumber (seedless).  I picked up a package of mini pumpernickel bread slices and some cream cheese.  Do you make these?  They were so popular years ago as appetizers.  Just a nice spread of cream cheese on the bread, a cucumber slice and and a tiny sprinkle of dill.  They truly hit the spot between lunch and dinner.
 
 
 
I mentioned we cooked peaches on the grill last week after making our dinner outside.  I neglected to get a picture.  The other night we did mango and pineapple and both were absolutely delicious.  The mango was a bit tough---maybe it needed more time, but the pineapple was spectacular.  Look at the charring.  It made it even better.  I highly recommend you try this.  Cut some fruit up in the morning and have it ready.  You'll love it.
 
 
 
I have a recipe for you that sounds a bit involved but it really isn't.  If I can do it with one arm, so can you,  And you won't be sorry!  And I've included some ideas for enjoying some of this recipe during the long cold months of winter should you so desire.  Here ya go:
 
 
GRILLED  STEAK TACOS WITH FIRE ROASTED SALSA & VEGGIES
 
 
For the marinade:
***
1 habanero pepper, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 T. chili powder
1 t. each salt & pepper
1 T. olive oil
 
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add 1 1/2 pound skirt steak and roll in the mixture, patting it in as well.  Let marinate a minimum of 1 hour.
 
For the salsa:
***
 
2 whole large garlic cloves
I poblano pepper seeded and cut in quarters
1 large beefsteak tomato cut in half
1 large white onion cut in quarters
2 T. lime juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Pinch of S & P
 
Fire up the grill.  Skewer the first 4 ingredients divided equally on to 2 skewers.  Grill on high heat, turning often until charred, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile. mix together the lime juice and cilantro in a medium size bowl.  When veggies are cooled, chop coarsely and add to the lime mixture tossing well.  Add salt and pepper and set aside.
 
Remove the steak from the marinade and grill on high heat 5-7 minutes per side.  Meanwhile. wrap 8 corn tortillas in parchment paper and then foil and place on the grill with the steak away from direct heat.
 
To Assemble:
***
 
Let steak rest 15 minutes.  During this time I grilled a few extra vegetables for a full-on meal; slices of red and green pepper, zucchini and red onion.  This is an optional side dish but so good. 
 
Slice steak very thinly against the grain.  It should be rare to medium rare to maintain it's tenderness.  Serve the steak over the corn tortillas topped with the salsa.  Add a nice topping of additional cilantro, queso fresco (a Mexican crumbling cheese you can find in almost any grocery store), and a squeeze of lime juice. 
 
Enjoy!!!
 
 
Now, the best part is, and I mentioned that just before the recipe, you can relive your warm summer nights enjoying part of this meal by simply making the salsa as directed and then canning or freezing it.  You will have that nice charbroiled flavor to serve with any sort of Mexican meal or as snack with chips.  Make nachos topped with this incredibly delicious salsa and bring it to a party as an appetizer.  Have a few jars on hand to give as holiday gifts along with the recipe.  The ideas are endless.
 
 
 
It was 95 degrees in the shade today which happens only occasionally here in Northern Illinois.  Same for tomorrow.  A slight breeze picked up about 8:00 p.m. tonight and I herded the two hounds outside for some fresh (?) air.  I saw the sun setting behind the houses west of us and was able to get a snap.  No altering or filters of this photo.  I think you can really see the steam coming out of the ground as it hit a bit cooler air.  My daylily's that surround my walnut tree are really coming into bloom as well as the Queen Anne Lace.  I have ferns tucked in there as well as columbine.  I've always called this my Woodland Garden because of the shade. 
 
Thanks to all of you again for your kind well wishes on the broken arm.  The pain is much the same but I can deal with that.  It's this stupid cast that drives me nuts.  I'm trying to visit blogs a bit everyday-if I haven't come to you recently, I will.  I was up until midnight last night finishing my newspaper column for the Michigan paper.  Leave it to me to wait for a deadline.  The other day I came home about 2:00 in the afternoon after going to have my hair and highlights done.  I walked past a sink full of dishes, 2 baskets of laundry that needed to be folded, and a bathroom in serious need of cleaning, and climbed into my bed with Layla and Milo.  Two hours later I awoke to the late afternoon sun peeking through the blinds.  All three of us stretched and I could swear those dogs smiled.  Yes!  Blondie can do chill once in awhile! :)
 
Happy Weekend!
 
Jane x

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A PEEK AT THE DEN REDO AND FRUIT ON THE GRILL

 
For your viewing pleasure, a pretty yellow daylily from the many that are popping up everywhere along with the peach varieties.  So pretty and I love mixing them up.  I like how every area in my yard has them blooming at different times depending on the amount of sunlight.  A real treat.
 
 
 
A few weeks ago I mentioned that I went to our local farmer's market and bought a three year old hydrangea.  Look how big those blooms are!  Can you spot Milo behind them?  :)   Wow!
 
 
 
 
I'm short on words.  Thanks so much to all the ladies who emailed me, wrote in their comments, and gave warm healing wishes on Instagram.  I just feel so happy and truly blessed.  All of you gave advice that was right on target...get casted and get back to the doctor.  I was in such pain for ten days solid after being told I had a sprained wrist..  Long story short, three fractures in the two bones in my arm.  How on earth did I do all the chopping and cooking and cleaning before the 4th of July party?  I'm not looking for accolades, nor sympathy and pats on the back.  Maybe a few fingers shaken in front of my face telling me to stop the 'people pleasing' and trying to prove I can do it all.  That's the truth.  Even now---I'm typing with two fingers and the hard cast keeps hitting the keyboard.  But hey, I want you all to know the situation and secondly, I love to write.  And I can't sit still. 
 
My days are filled with errands and 'housework' (can we please come up with a better word?).  I'm not invincible but I have a routine that keeps me sane. I HAVE to get out everyday and I may be a hazard on the road but I do it.  I push myself because I would go nuts sitting in the house alone day after day.  Call me weird---the other day I was taking a shower.  I don't wrap the arm in plastic as the nurse suggested.  I just hold it out and up and away from the spray.  I started to think of people with disabilities and those who have lost a limb like an arm.  What if...and call me crazy, we all had three arms, if that's how God made us.  And then we injured one and could only use two.  There we are in the shower mad as hell that we can't soap up, shampoo and shave our legs at the same time with those two arms  We grumble and whine and then we do the best we can.  I'm not trying to  sound like the quintessential optimist but really, we take so much for granted and we have the ability to adjust.   Seriously though, I have my rainy days when I lie on the bed reading magazines and dozing.  I don't deny the pain and the need to take care of myself.  I'm probably the biggest baby you've ever met! ;-D
 
 
 
Before the big break (Ha!) I took down the wall decor I had on the wall in my family room and with the help of The Husband, hung these windows.  I SO love old chippy windows and it's amazing how something can change the way you love a room.  To the right of the windows I have a cute group of picture frames yet to be filled.  Sort of reminds me of people way back when who carried wallets with unknown faces in the plastic picture slots!  I'll get around to it.  Hmmm...black and white or color?  People or nature?  This may take some time. 
 
 
 
I've left you with so many projects just hanging.  This is the den.  My new furniture from Emily's shop arrived about 2 weeks ago.  Club chairs in a nubby but soft fabric.  I found the sea grass rug at Amazon for a super low price.  KariAnne from Thistlewood Cottage wrote about a sea grass rug she's had for over 6 years without one speck of problems.  I've had jute and sisal so I wanted to give this a try---I really love the natural look and fibers.  The room is in the early stages...I tried a few things on the shelves and am searching for a media center (and if I had my druthers, just a small cabinet I could paint), for a television.  This will  be a little room for The Husband and I to read in and watch a movie or two once in awhile.
 
 

 
 
We've been making our dinners outdoors a lot lately, The Husband mans the grill and I usually make the side dishes.  I have been hearing for a long time about the wonderful flavors you can get from grilling fruit.  Last weekend when Abby was home, The Husband was making the main meal on the grill  and we sliced up peaches and let them cook a bit while we had our dinner. Checking them once in awhile, we ended up with soft, warm juicy peaches that tasted a lot like peach pie.  We dove into our dessert and I only wished we had some vanilla ice cream.  I picked up a pineapple and some mango  at the grocery for our next extravaganza and yes, a carton of ice cream!
 
 
I've had enough than I need for typing now---if you find a lot of typos, be patient!    Thank you for all of your thoughts, advice and well wishes.  I'll be in this wretched cast for three weeks.  But I'll keep pushing on.  Believe me---I have plenty of time to rest and I will.  I just love to connect.  You can find me on Instagram under Blondies Journal (see sidebar) if you want to get a day-by-day life update. ;-D
 
Hope you are having a great weekend and I'll be back later in the week,. :)
 
Jane x

Sunday, July 5, 2015

HOLIDAY FUN, FOOD & CRAZY ANTICS

 
Asiatic Lily
 
I thought we'd start off with some nice soft colors before we leaped into the red, white and blue.  And I hope all of you here in the states had a great Independence Day.  I have to say it was different this year in the city after having spent the past 20+ holidays at the lake.  I was not disappointed a bit.  We have parks all around and they have the most awesome displays, and we have several parades in and around our neighborhood. 
 
 
 
Abby came home Thursday for the holiday weekend and in time for the big parade that we had always gone to as the kids were growing up.  Both my boys were in Little League and The Husband coached for many years.  They proudly walked in this parade every 4th of July so it's sentimental.  Abby's Tom lives just a few blocks from the parade route and the park where they have a big fireworks display at nightfall.  We were invited to an after-parade party at his house where we could see the fireworks from his backyard deck.  It was a great evening for all.  And popular!  We had to park the car about 6 blocks away.  The streets were crowded with happy revelers and it was just a great night to enjoy city.  And this was just Thursday!
 
 
 
Before I get too far ahead of myself, I had an appointment to look at dresses for son Jeff's wedding next month.  Yes!  It's upon us for real.  I look back at Kevin's wedding 4 years back, and Emily's 2 years ago and I think---wow!  I was such a wreck and I think I documented that pretty well on this blog.  I'm not going to say I'm a whole lot more laid back now, but I do know that after all is said and done, it's the occasion that counts and what remains in your heart after.  Not all the worries and fussing before. 
 
I found my dress at the small bridal shop where Emily found her wedding gown and I got my mother of the bride dress.  I like the personal attention and that you are not paraded around in front of other women to get a look in the mirrors.  These ladies are pro's but they are also the sweetest, calling everyone 'Hon' and 'Dear'.  It almost makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside while  being in nothing much more than your bra and panties.  Anywho...this is and isn't  my dress.  Okay, it's the dress but not the color.  I really wanted navy, just sort of had my heart set on it.  It's elegant and a step away from black.  And I find dark colors so forgiving.  This color was called Blue Willow and it just wasn't right.  So I ordered the dress in Smoke, which is a very pale filmy gray.  I really love the sheer sleeves with a bit of embroidery, the empire waist and the sparkles just on the bodice---just the right amount of bling.  The pleat down the front is slimming and shows a little leg.  It's floor length and the ladies recommended I not have it hemmed to tea length as it would mess up that ruffled seam.  I'm happy.  It will be in in one week (sigh of relief here), and then I have alterations.  Oh, and I have to look for shoes.  But I'm calm.  Very calm.
 
 
 
I wasn't sure how Milo was going to do with the loud noise on the 4th.  At the lake I usually stay behind with him when everyone goes out on the boat for the fireworks.  Surprisingly, he was pretty chill considering that he now takes the phenobarbital for seizures.  Our family BBQ and romping with cousin Tulo wore him out and he conked out about 9 p.m. right on the patio in the midst of all the bangs and booms.  :)
 
 
 
 
 
I never could have done it without The Husband and Abby.  They did a lot of the heavy stuff because I'm still having issues with my injured hand.  We had three folding tables and our picnic table as well as the umbrella table on the patio.  We ended up with about 30 guests.  Looks pretty fancy, eh?  Shhhh...those are not tablecloths.  Think sheets and a few shower curtains, all of which I had in my linen closet.  Each table had flowers that I dismembered from one grocery store bouquet and an elegant citronella candle from Home Depot.  All other decorations from the Dollar Store.  I'm such a big spender.
 
 
 
I always tint the vase water like this on the 4th at the lake.  I had to sniffle a little when I thought that the daisies would be  blooming up there now.  I always used them in my vases in and out of the house for this holiday.  I didn't let this take away from the day, we had a blast.
 
 
 
Abigail made a wonderful sangria and the drinks and appetizers flowed.  Everyone brought such great dishes but I simply forgot to take get some snaps.  The Husband manned the grill and along with the hamburgers and hotdogs I made a potato salad and pasta salad.  My sister in law made a tossed salad with an awesome dressing.  We had chips and pickles and everything 'All American'.  The desserts were in abundance;  apple pie, cookies, two beautiful cakes, cupcakes.  My daughter in law, Mary Clare, made some sort of  toffee treat with Heath Bars, graham crackers and vanilla chips that was so fantastic I texted her at 11:00 p.m. for the recipe.  I will share that soon. 
 
 
 
Here's our little Elsie in her cute Star Spangled Banner outfit.  Isn't she precious?  Her eyes really lit up over the brightly colored decorations.  And she is amazing (I know, we all say that about our grandkids), she absolutely doesn't fuss or cry...not when we've been around her.  Gosh---we want to eat her up!
 
 
 
I'll end with a parting shot of Abby putting mosquito netting to a new use.  Leave it to the "Me" generation to figure out how to protect the baby and oneself at the same time. 
 
So there you have it.  We're good on holidays until Labor Day.  We will be going to Louisville in less than 3 weeks for my niece's wedding.  I'm so looking forward to that---it's been years since we've been down there and I always love catching up with my brother and his really sweet family.  We're making a 4 day weekend out of it so we can relax a bit.  And then Jeff and Deirdre's wedding is two weeks later.  Their wedding is at the church in the parish Deirdre grew up in not far from here.  The reception is at the country club Jeff belongs to.  I understand it's going to be huge...250 invites mailed the other day.  Yikes, that's almost 500 guests.  I can honestly (and a bit proudly) say that they both have many many friends going back a lifetime, as well as colleagues and family and they didn't want to leave anyone out on this special day.  I'm happy for them and I'm calm.  Calm, calm, calm. 
 
I wish my hand was doing better.  All the activity in the past week has not helped.  I keep it wrapped in the long tight bandage thing at night and as much as possible during the day.  The main issue is in the wrist.  With my good hand I can hold out my arm and bend at my wrist to make a sort of claw shape with it.  With the injured left hand I can't bend the wrist a millimeter like that.  I have thought about making an appointment with the doctor that did my carpal tunnel surgery in November.  The Husband thinks I should give it more time, maybe the tendons and ligaments need more time to heal.  Just not sure what I'll do. 
 
Okay, I'm off.  Thanks for listening to me drone.  Have a wonderful week!
 
Jane x

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

BACKYARD ADVENTURES & 2 GREAT SUMMER RECIPES

 
You know how I love to start out a post with a pretty picture.  Last night in the dark hours and during a fit of insomnia, I was fiddling with my phone and made a few Waterlogue pictures.  Yeah that dreadful light and stimulation only adds to the sleeplessness but I find it to be a great time to catch up on the local and national news, the weather forecast, FB and IG.  Love technology, especially when it doesn't aggravate The Husband and his beauty sleep.  So here we have my fave pot (or galvanized pail).  It gets prettier everyday.
 
 
 
Not so pleasant---I did a number on my arm, wrist and hand.  Doesn't it seem like yesterday that I was all wrapped up from that carpal tunnel surgery I had?  Well believe me, this was 100 times worse as far as pain as that ordeal was.  In a nutshell (or a moment of sheer stupidity), I stood on a  oak chair on a shiny oak floor to turn on a ceiling fan and the whole chair went out from under me.   I tried to break the fall with my left hand.  Nothing broke, which sometimes I think might mean less pain.  I went to a small emergency clinic and had X-rays, etc.  I was in tears and The Husband whisked me over pronto.  Then he had to make a run home when he realized he had his slippers on.  Egad...he'll kill me if he knows I wrote this.  So I'm doing well after a few days of lollygagging around.  Abby was home for a few days---in fact this happened with me trying to turn on the ceiling fan in her room/guest room to make it more comfy for her.  Well, she sort of did a few things for me to make it up.  She picked up her discarded clothes from the bathroom everyday and made me scrambled eggs this morning.  I guess we're good. 
 
 
 
 
Remember the pretty caterpillars that ate New York...er, my dill plant? I think they have moved on.  And it's so cool, I have a half dozen butterflies flying around my patio as if they are playing tag.  I did find two milkweed plants in my yard so that explains why I have them.  This is so cool!  The new bird sightings...so exciting.  I had a problem with the house sparrows and I finally got a feeder and filled it with black oil sunflower seeds which they don't like.  Now I'm hoping to see up close some of the other pretty birds flitting around my garden. 
 
 
 
 
 
Another Waterlogue picture.  I was walking away from the back of my yard and thought you might like to see a view from around the corner of the patio.  Everything is so lush with all of the rain.  If I just had the chance to enjoy it!  We have some great weather predicted for the next few days.  Love it!
 
 
-
 
 
I don't know if it was the rain, lack of sun or the new varieties of flowers I bought this spring but I had to pick up a few cell packs at Home Depot today and fill in some pots.  They look great now.  Then I created this little corner on my patio with a little chair and a tiny I-don't-know-what-to-call-it.  This area had been all white stone dating years back.  It would have taken forever to remove it so I went over it with mulch.  I'd like to paint and distress the chair and little whatever that is to give them an old and worn appeal.  Any suggestions?
 
 


The Husband loves chicken Marsala and I saw the bottle the other night and realized I hadn't made it in awhile.  The traditional calls for mushrooms and I happened to be fresh out so I substituted black beans.  It was a hit and we both loved it.  I'm not going to give you a recipe.  It's simply sautéed chicken cutlets in Marsala wine and butter, a pinch of garlic and then I added about 1/2 cup of black beans.  Simple and delicious.  Let me know by email if you need more info.




The Husband has been really, really helpful with my hand injury.  It's my left hand and of course, I'm left handed.  I'm typing with seven fingers right now.  He loves his grill and so it's simply up to me to make a side dish while he cooks the main dish.  We rarely eat potatoes or pasta or rice...I don't do many carbs.  If I do it's healthy grains.   We were getting tired of the various salads I had been making  so I searched the fridge tonight for something different.  Here you have it.  Sliced plum tomatoes and  leeks on a bed of arugula topped with blue cheese and grated mozzarella.  I then drizzled a tiny bit of Italian vinaigrette over and a good grind of black pepper.  Very good.  The Husband isn't crazy about onions but he liked the mild flavor of the leeks.  It's pretty when you arrange it and would make a nice dish to serve when having company.  But don't wait for that!

And speaking of company...we have that 4th of July BBQ and the guest list is now up to 26.  I imagine not everyone is going to come but that's where we are at.  We are simply going to have hamburgers, hotdogs and potato salad, and then I have family members bringing other side dishes, appetizers and desserts.  I think we are going to have a lot of fun and I hope the weather cooperates (and the mosquitoes leave us alone).  Do you have plans?  I'll take some pics to share and be back soon.  Hopefully able to use all ten fingers! :)

Jane x



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