Monday, August 22, 2016

TIME FOR CHANGES


My Prerequisite Beautiful Photo

Hello everyone.  Me again.  A day late and a dollar short.  Where does the time go?  I can't tell you how many days go by when I think I don't have anything interesting to say or new photos to share.  The other evening I was scrolling back over posts I'd written years ago and I saw so many craft projects, tablescapes, changes in decor, organizational ideas... a nice variety of everything.  I feel like my blog has taken a different direction of late...  Okay, things shift, life has it's changes, but I plan to spend some extra time I have in the winter months, when the Midwest burrows down under blankets and the snow flies, to spend time going off in varied directions.  And I hope to get on a better schedule! 



I've been working on my den again.  Have you ever felt that a room would be perfect if for just one thing...something you can't put your finger on.  This is a super small room and before I overhauled it a year ago it had walls covered in  dark green floral wallpaper, shelves on every wall with dusty books going back years, and a few pieces of somewhat formal furniture that made the room even more unappealing as opposed to relaxing.  The room time had forgotten.  

I stripped the room down to the bare bones and bought some comfy furniture.  Maybe it's the small space but the neutral colors looked very bland.  I've tried bold pillows, adding navy and then burgundy accents.  I almost gave up, my room felt comfortable so I was just going to stop fussing.  And then a few days ago I saw these curtains at Target and I thought, "Bingo".  The color, pattern, the silky texture, it was everything I needed.  Sometimes things just don't fall together at once.  And since I am a chameleon, it's probably better that they don't.



And then I got around to some other decorating challenges.  I might have mentioned that The Husband has been sticking his nose in...er, becoming a bit more interested in the decor here and at the lakehouse.  I'm seriously not sure where this is coming from.  Everything from pictures on the walls to simple switch plates.  We bickered for days over having white or cream colored cabinets in the laundry room.  The laundry room!!!  I didn't know he even knew we had one.  That aside, one day I found that he had made some major changes to our office.  Over a year ago I took on a huge project of cleaning out this space that had become a virtual storage room with a computer.  I actually filled up five huge Hefty bags and spent a ton of time tossing out homework going  back to when my girls were in high school and The Husband was working on his first season of Fantasy Football.  Possibly 1987.  

You see that huge clock?  It was a garish gold and it took me days to paint, three coats in and out of all those little curlycues.  I made the little floral arrangement under the cloche and framed photos of the kids.  And above the computer I added push pin boards.  In keeping with my feminine side I pinned all sort of cute postcards and pics...  


...pretty, huh?



And then one day I noticed this.  The Husband came along and claimed his territory in a way that would have made General Grant happy.  He loves the history of the Civil War and American Indians.  And I truly love that he loves that.  His knowledge of that period of time is extraordinary.  But I just happened to walk into the office one day and there was Geronimo staring at me.  I sort of freaked.  On the opposite wall where I had a lovely gicglee painting on canvas, he had replaced it with one of his framed degrees, and the painting was on a wall in the guest room, a terrible placement I might add.  

My feelings were all over the place.  Of course I wanted his degree hanging on the wall, but it was a  smallish framed square on an otherwise empty wall.  But I remained calm, he actually uses the office more than I do and in a way it's rather cute that he wants to add his weird little choices for decor.  

One day last week he came to me with a stack of photos, maybe 8 X 11.  Black and white illustrations of...trout.  Big ugly trout swimming to the surface of the water with flies on hooks dangling above.  His eyes were sort of twinkling, "I'm going to have these framed!" he exclaimed, "For my office!"  Oh, high five!  Then..."You mean your office downtown, right?"  "No!  Here!"

This is when you take the time to walk around the house and gently close all the windows and doors or your neighbors might otherwise warn the police your home is about to become crime scene.  

I did however, calm myself down by taking a long shower.  My second of the day.  But it gave me time to think.  And my first thought was the obvious, march into the office and take all of his gosh darn historical, over achieving crap down and put my stuff back.  And then as I was drying my hair I had a novel idea.  Sometimes when you do the opposite of what people expect it really throws them off.  I went in and took down my pictures, my burlap boards, my pretty cloche and framed photos, I even took the cute baskets holding printer paper and the miscellaneous.  Oh, and the Target lamp.  

It looked sad.  Barren and sad.  As we sat down for dinner I told him he was welcome to frame his trout and flies.  I said, "I actually made a ton of room for you in the office to do whatever you please."

A week went by and not much happened.  One of our daughters mentioned to me that they brought up the subject of the 'undecorated' office to him and he looked a little sullen.  And then one day I received a text from him.  "Hon, have you redecorated the office yet?" 



And that I did!


In other news, we watched this movie Saturday night.  Having read the book and loving it, I wasn't sure if I'd like the movie but I think they were equally good.  The movie kept true to the book although it had to leave out a lot of nuances that shaped the story and characters, but otherwise, it had us both reaching for the Kleenex.  I'm reading the sequel now along with fifteen other books. 


I'm really excited to say that we may be moving back into the lakehouse over Labor Day weekend.  I am beyond excited.  Everything will be delivered, the furniture put back in place and I believe our belongings are in boxes labeled for each room.  Everything is going to have to be washed and stored. Have you ever looked forward to work like that?  I am so excited that Milo and Layla can be back at their home away from home...I know that sounds a little over the top but they filled in a spot where the kids left off once they grew out of spending weekends 100 miles from the city.  I wonder if the hounds will recognize it with all of the new smells.? I have a little stash in the corner of my family room but otherwise we have nothing new to bring.  Abby and Tom found this sign at HomeGoods.  I love it!

I want to end this post by telling you about a long time blogger friend of mine, Traci, from The Traci Chronicles.  Traci and her family live in Baton Rouge and although they are safe and have escaped damage to their homes, there is devastation all around.  It's heart wrenching to read this blog post I'm linking you to but I hope you take the time to read it along with a recent email from her.  I'm copying and pasting it for all of you.  I asked her how we could give, how we could donate or help.  Her email  says it all and more.  It's my feeling that we see devastation, pain, hunger and disaster all around the world everyday.  Seeing communities, countries and the world work together is one thing that is not only critical, it opens our hearts and restores humanity.  If you have the time to look at the Go Fund Me Page, please do.  Ordering much needed bins and supplies directly through Amazon is also a  really great option.  I ask that you contact me directly for Traci's address.







Traci Blanchard

9:47 AM (7 hours ago)
to me

The email address you sent this too originally is good but the one I'm replying from is best. I check it multiple times a day. THe other is just for blog stuff. 

We're doing ok. So much better than most people. We've spent a lot of time this week helping friends & family basically demolish their homes & throw away all of their personal belongings & washing A TON of clothes. It's such an eye opening experience.  

I was in Central this weekend which is where my parents & brother & sis-in-law live. They were so lucky that they didn't flood. The majority of the subd. did & it's EVERY street. The shock has subsided now & reality is setting in for people & a lot of them just don't know what they're going to do. Aside from the stress of losing everything, there's the dealing with flood insurance IF you had it & car insurance because aside from losing houses a lot of these people lost cars too. There's just so much. 

Some schools are starting back this week. At least the ones that didn't have damage. Plans have been put in place that some schools with damage are moving the kids to other locations to be able to hold classes. The public school system in Baton Rouge isn't a good one. Several of the private schools are heavily damaged. We have a large number of private Catholic schools which are trying to make arrangements to take in kids from schools with damage. This is a burden as well because these are schools that have to deny entrance during normal years because of lack of space & trying to keep the student to teacher ratio balanced.  All of those things will be thrown out the window so that kids can just get back to school & some sort of normalcy. 

Baton Rouge has had a really rough few months between the police shootings & this but one thing is certain - Southern Hospitality is real & the people of Louisiana have come together like you've never seen. People without damage are helping the people with damage. People without damage are cooking hot meals for people with damage. Donations are pouring in. I'm not sure if you saw anything about the "Cajun Navy". These were just "regular" people with boats (a LOT of people) rescued person after person after person & animal after animal after animal. Someone dubbed them the Cajun Navy. These people were life savers. 

Donations are greatly appreciated. Todd McClure is a former LSU football player who was raised in Central. He went on to play in the NFL for awhile for the Atlanta Falcons. He's set up a Go Fund Me account through a local bank here. All donations will be given to the people in the communities that were hardest hit. NO administration fees or any of that nonsense. The site is https://www.gofundme.com/2jwp6e4

If someone would rather not donate money & wants to donate "stuff" (toiletries, diapers, wipes, cleaning supplies) they can send them to me & I'll  make sure they're distributed where needed. My address is *****Please contact Blondies Journal 

There are a lot of things that are in short supply here - mainly things like plastic storage bins. A suggestion was made on FB that if someone wants to donate something like that order it from Amazon & have it shipped to someone in the area so that's another idea & my address may  be used. 

The Red Cross is here & hasn't been as helpful as they could be. When they get here they take over the shelters & won't accept any food that doesn't come from one of their "contracted" people. They say they have to make sure that health regulations are being abided by. The people in these shelters have lost everything. Some were sitting on their roof waiting to be rescued, some had to wade through sewer water to be rescued. A good, hot meal that someone is providing free is most important & that's not what the Red Cross is providing.  A LOT of home cooked, good food has been turned away at these shelters. It's a very sad situation. 

Thank you so much for the thoughts & prayers.





I'm off now, have a great week!  I will be back soon, or else!!

Jane x







Monday, August 8, 2016

A WHOLE LOT OF PRIMPING EVERYWHERE


A precious find from Asheville

Happy August!  We're in the home stretch now.  I'm trying to be a good Flower Mother in keeping my pots watered, a bit of the sprinkler action going on in the evening and trimming the ivy.  Not sure if I mentioned that I have ivy growing over a large window which happens to be the biggest window in our living room.  We can no longer see out.  That's not the effect I was looking for when I planted it back in the Renaissance age.  After my tumble off a chair last summer and resulting broken arm, I certainly don't want to get on a ladder.  I don't want to embarrass The Husband but he doesn't care for ladders either.  I was able to pull a bit of the ivy from a section of a shutter and it took a chunk of paint with it.  OH NO!  Somehow I have to figure this out.  The problem with ivy is that the more you cut it back, the healthier it becomes and it grows much more vigorously.  I don't EVEN want to think of the Wisteria at the lakehouse.  

On to an entirely different subject.  While in Asheville last week we toured the Grove Park Inn as I mentioned in my last post.  There were a great many shops just off the lobby and in one of them I found what was called a tumbler although I thought it was a vase.  Love at first sight.  I look at it and it makes me happy.  And it screamed for bright flowers, not pink or white or pastel blooms.  That's it above.  Those babies are still alive after days.



New ideas after shopping the house


I've had this tin pail (for lack of a better description) for ages.  I'm a little slow on the take but I couldn't think of a way to use it for fresh flowers as the WELCOME is cut out.  Duh.  I found the perfect vase to fit inside and now I'm loving using it on the dining table.  I really like these yellow carnations.  I rarely see them in this shade and as they last so long they are a good buy.  The pink flowers are asters.  I'm going to plant some next year...a done deal.  They are annuals but I've never really paid attention to them before.  The colors are a pretty combo.  Don't you think some vases just beg for a certain sort of mix and color?



Stumbling upon a fabulous festival

Again, going through the last of my pictures from Asheville I wanted to share a festival The Husband and I stumbled upon the day before we flew home.  We were just planning on doing a bit of souvenir shopping in the downtown area.  We stumbled upon a park and noticed all of the white tents and throngs of people in a park.  Turns out it was the annual Leaf Festival.  How lucky we were!  We really had a great time.  I found so many great treasures; new collars for my dogs and a portion of the proceeds go toward 'No Kill' centers.  The Husband found some great local pottery and I came upon some candles for our daughters.  They are quite amazing.  The warmed liquid wax surrounding the wick is meant for dipping your fingers in and it's basically oil you can massage into your hands that smells just like the candle!  It was amazing to watch the sellers demonstrating.  Not sure what sort of wax they used...I'll have to ask one of my girls to give me the website and if you are interested you can check them out.  All in all it was a great ending to a marvelous week in my favorite mountain place!  If you ever visit, give me a shout and I'll try to help you out with places we've loved.  :-D



Making a beautiful hairdo my own

This was one crazy busy and fun filled week after getting my bearings being back home.  We were invited guests to a family wedding on The Husband's side.  And when I say family I mean all 4 of our kids and their partners and many, many in laws, cousins and friends.  I haven't been to a formal event since my son's wedding last summer so I was sort of excited to get a new dress.  I had been to one of my favorite shops three times, once actually in Asheville, and had my eye on a pretty dress. I bit the bullet and  of course that led to new heels and an evening bag.  Tuesday Abby was home and wanted to get a pedicure together.  It wasn't on my agenda but I love doing this sort of thing with my daughters.  This was a 'new to me' salon and it was so cool.  The package I chose involved a paraffin wax treatment for my feet and an incredible leg massage.  The guy was so nice and after a lot of encouraging I had my nails done, too.  Nothing artificial, just a good 'ol manicure that was close to having Madge soaking my fingertips in Palmolive.  Remember those commercials? ;-)

Later in the week I went with Emily to a maternity shop in the local mall and helped her select a dress.  She found a beautiful one in a light floral silk.  I love that girls are showing off their growing tummies.  A far cry from my pregnancy days and before when we wore loose smock tops, as if we needed to hide something.   Anyway, she looked gorgeous.  After leaving this shop we moved on to Sephora as she needed one of her favorite foundations.  I roamed around and ended up buying 3 lip glosses.  How I love makeup, products and playing around with different looks.  I've been that way since I was allowed to wear makeup when I was about fifteen.  You don't want to see my vanity table!

Regarding the picture above, I've had this on my Pinterest board of hairstyles forever.  I remember wearing my hair blown out and straight at a salon for son Jeff's wedding last August.  The heat and humidity caused it to curl up and frizz beyond the point of an actual hairstyle.  I can't even bear looking at the pictures.  My girl, Peggy, who's been doing my hair for the last 8 months said, "Sure.  I can do this for you."  And that she did.  I wish I had someone take a picture of how pretty it was from behind.  In fact, my sister in law, Megan had a very similar hairstyle.  She said she had wanted something loose that looked like she had done it up herself.  That was my plan, too.  And Peggy also offered to do my makeup.  I'm so glad I had her do it...she had so many products and expertise in applying everything I couldn't believe it was me.  Yet it was very natural.  When my own kids say I look great and I could truly feel it.

Me and the ever elusive Husband





Here's The Husband and I at the reception.  It looks like we have cartons of Chinese food in front of us!  Just napkins tucked into glasses.  The curls around my face sort of wilted and I can't begin to tell you how hard it was to remove all of the pins from the back of my head once we got home.  It was so worth it.  And we had a ball.  We all danced as soon as the Deejay started and I don't think I rested a minute.  So fun, well until...Abby's boyfriend Tom pulled me out on the dance floor and we were dancing to a great upbeat song.  He grabbed my hands and we were whirling and twirling and the next thing I knew I was falling, falling, falling and I ended up on my rump on the floor.  I was mortified.  To make things worse, a heavy bracelet I was wearing flew off and hit one of the bridesmaids in the chin.  In the background I could hear one of my sister in laws yelling, "Jane's down!  Jane's down!"  Arghhhh...  Well, I survived, we all do.  I kept my dancing to slow ballads with The Husband and Papa.  



My Emily 

A little change in subject matter.  This is my Emily at six months pregnant.  Isn't she a doll?  She's having a few issues with her feet swelling but otherwise she's on the go.  I don't think I've mentioned, the baby is going to be named Madelyn Elise.  Isn't it a beautiful name?



Roasted Asparagus with Bread Crumbs and Parmesan

I know, another terrible food picture from me.  I hope you don't judge a book by its cover.  And trust me, I would never post a picture and recipe if it wasn't delicious.

In trying to keep carbs down at dinner we have our protein (otherwise known as meat) and then 2 vegetables rather than a starch (otherwise known as bread, potatoes, rice and pasta).  Maybe not so appetizing to some.  But keeping things interesting is the name of the game.  

I roasted a bundle of asparagus after cutting off the woody end and then slicing the remaining piece in half.  Toss the pieces in a bowl with a tablespoon of oil.  In another dish mix together a half cup each of breadcrumbs and shredded or shaved pieces of Parmesan cheese.  Toss the asparagus in the dry mixture and place on an oiled baking sheet.  All it needs is about 7-10 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  I found that some of my shaved pieces of Parmesan came off and toasted a bit on their own.  Tasty but not what I had in mind so I recommend you use shredded cheese.  

I've been coming upon so many other veggie recipes in cookbooks, magazines and Pinterest.  Variety is the key and as I said, we eat two different vegetables with our dinner (and I usually have a salad for lunch, and cucumbers, carrots, celery or zucchini with a creamy dip as a snack), I really need to put thought into dinner to keep it interesting. 

 It looks like everything is wrapping up at the lakehouse and our belongings, furniture, etc., may be delivered back to us possibly within the next two weeks.  I am beyond excited.  We have a long road of hard work ahead in getting everything inside and out put back together but it's a clean slate and that helps.  I can't wait to share pics with you guys.  We may have missed our second summer there but I have to admit, autumn is beyond beautiful in Michigan.  I can foresee many nights relaxing around the bonfire after a long days work.  And having family and friends back up next spring...we are going to be in good shape by then.  How blessed we are!

That's it for today.  Have a great week everyone!

Jane 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

BEAUTIFUL ASHEVILLE IN SUMMER


I am technically still on vacation, we leave bright and early at 10:45 tomorrow morning and with the time change we will be home at 11:15 a.m.  Love that.  And it's just enough time for a short nap~~from takeoff to landing.  I have motion sleepiness.  
Seriously; planes, cars, trains.  It's a great way to pass the time snoozing but not when I'm driving and it has happened on long boring trips.  Coffee is seriously needed.

You know I have to start off a post with a pretty photo.  My flowers are doing well despite the heat and I didn't have to worry about them as Chicago has been deluged with rain.  Then again that causes the weeds to pop up everywhere, but as long as we have cooler weather this coming week I can play in the garden.  I miss that a bit and Milo and Layla (a lot).  



It was great to walk in the door of our little place here in the mountains.  The weather was sweltering but we were really excited to see Asheville in the summer.  In the 5 years we've been here we've only come in the spring and fall.  The lakehouse keeps us busy from April until September. 

 We hit the pool right away and I wish I had brought my camera or phone but I was thinking all that I needed and wanted was my water and sunscreen.  I was really tying to get away from the media other than a little Instagram to document the trip.  Thanks for the 'likes' ladies.  I'm guessing it was in the low 90's and in the few steps from our lounge chairs to the pool my feet felt like I was walking on hot coals.  In spite of the heat we enjoyed ourselves.  The pool is large and sparkling clean.  There is a hot tub that can probably hold 20 people.  That's a lot of fun in the evening when it gets cooler, you really get to know people as the conversation starts to flow.  There's also a fire pit which is also great for cool nights.  This area is surrounded by black wrought iron fencing, brick and stone walls, gorgeous hedges and blooming plants.  The only thing it needs is a little bar and waiter, and perhaps a few cabanas.  Ha!  Although the 90 degree heat continued all week, this was our one and only trip to the pool but as you can see from the above pic, I enjoyed time on our balcony to kick back and relax in the shade.  Fresh air always makes me feel alive.



This was the year of trying new things, mostly restaurants we had never been to and parts of Asheville we weren't familiar with.  I don't want to go into restaurant reviews but I took a few photos here and there to give you the feel of some of the wonderful eateries and great food we had.

My sister in law was here last month with her daughters and they gave us a gift certificate to a restaurant right here in Biltmore Village.  Cantina is fantastic...gourmet Mexican food.  We had dinner there twice, both times dining al fresco (my favorite).  Funny, we had never heard of it.  



And how can you not celebrate your first night at home in the mountains without an after~dinner drink?  we dined at 2 other 'new to us' restaurants, Chestnut and Fig.  We met long time friends at each restaurant.  I can't rave enough about the food in Asheville.  I have written a few restaurant reviews for social media but on my own blog I simply like to tell you about great places with great food.  These 2 equal good times.  


Fig is tucked away in a courtyard just a bit beyond where the shops taper off in Biltmore Village.  We are really happy with the area in which we chose to have our home away from home.  It seems like new shops and restaurants pop up every year.  But back to Fig.  We met up with some of our favorite people and had such a wonderful time it was miraculous we stopped talking enough to eat.  The menu is American with some perfect French touches and I like that the chef creates new and delicious dishes all the time. Our waitress was very sweet, you know when someone loves their job.  


Look at these Prince Edward Island mussels, we had them as an appetizer. We just can't get this quality seafood in the Midwest.  In the simple broth I detected (Yes, me, Inspector Clouseau) some garlic and kick and something earthy which balanced it quite nicely.  Just perfect.  I'm going low carb again so when I asked to substitute the potatoes in my dinner with another veggie, I was served the most fresh and greenest cut green beans immersed in a wonderful sauce under my steak.  Whenever The Husband cleans his plate he tells the waitress, "I didn't like it."  Always funny.  Well, we all could have said that.:)


We returned to Fig Friday night for a drink in the courtyard.  The weather was finally feeling a bit cooler and we felt so comfortable, full and content tucked away in this special little place.

I hope you can check out some of the restaurants we've loved in Asheville, hence the links.  We also had dinner at Corner Kitchen and Rezaz.  All of these are near our place in the village but for Chestnut, which is in downtown Asheville.   LAB (Lexington Ave. Brewery) is perfect for a mid afternoon snack and a local brew.   I don't like to use pics from the Internet so this is what you get.  So many times you miss the scenery in the moment when you're trying to capture it in photos.  It's not the same.  



Over the years I've shared pictures with you guys of downtown Asheville trying to capture the vibe, cool art scene and eclectic shops.  Sometimes you have to turn away from the shop windows and look at the beauty.  This is a city that has respect for its streets, sidewalks and parks. I'm always in awe by the scenery and the friendly shop and restaurant owners.  



I love stopping to listen to street musicians...



We drove past this wall and I told The Husband we just had to go back to it after we parked.  For some reason the "Before I Die" resonated with me more than the good 'ol Bucket List.  The latter sounds a bit...playful, and there's nothing wrong with that.  I watched people reaching in the pail for chalk; pondering a bit, laughing and talking with strangers, and for a few good minutes I felt a true sense of community and humanity.  I'm not going to start waxing poetic, I simply feel such a yearning for world peace for the sake of all the dreamers who believe hopes and dreams and goals are still attainable, and of course for our children.   



Here's a close~up.  I love them all, from, "Marry my best friend", to "Swim w/ the sharks".   The enthusiasm is catchy, no?  My contribution, "World Peace".   



We found new areas of Asheville to explore.  I had to take a snap of this shop.  I thought of some of my blog friends who love to knit and crochet;  Shelia, Helen, Meredith and Tammy to name a few.  Don't you just love the little sheep?  Is that a black sheep?  That would definitely be me. ;-D



We had been by the historical Grove Park Inn many times but never stopped.  It opened way back in 1913.  When we visited a few days ago we simply weren't prepared.  Without modern machinery in 1909 when construction began, mules pulling sleds and wagons brought in huge boulders down from the mountains.  This is a view of the inn I captured in a photo from one of the newer wings.  We walked and read all of the information posted here and there on the walls.  So many past presidents stayed at the inn while speaking at various venues in Asheville.  President Obama actually took a 2 week vacation here with his family last year.  And a host of dignitaries, writers, artists and movie stars from waaaaay back also enjoyed this magnificent inn.  The Husband and I sat in a little pub area off the lobby where we had a cocktail and a plate of small bites; roasted cauliflowers with cheese and garlic and a sweet pea mint sauce.  You can bet I'm going to try to duplicate this.  



You can see the mountains in the distance beyond this 18 hole golf course.  Maybe I can entice my boys visiting using this as bait.  ;-D 



I am so grateful for the friends I've made in Asheville through blogging.  Just the best.  We were so lucky to meet up with a few...it takes perfect timing.  I received this lovely gift from one sweet friend.  All of you ladies, please know I enjoy when we can get together and pick up like there aren't miles between us.  Friendship.  How lucky we are to have it, even 'across the miles'.

I have to stop here.  I'll post a bit more later, I just wanted to touch base.  I love vacations but I really do miss those darn dogs.  I simply can't think about them or I get very down.  We have a house/dogsitter but I know 'normal' life with The Husband and I is something that keeps them calm.  My kids tell me I'm becoming neurotic about them but really, Milo has seizures when he's upset and Layla pretty much loses her bladder function all over the place when she's frightened by anyone new.  The bare truth!

Off I go.  Oh, I wanted to mention that I'm having a glitch on my laptop with sending emails directly to you from your comments.  I feel it's more important to visit your blog when I see a comment yet I'd like to respond to a question and that thought gets lost in the process.  So if you don't get an email from me, please know I'll be prompted to visit you as soon as possible 

Welcome August.  Hopefully smooth sailing!

Have a great week...

Jane x



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

THE FIFTH SEASON AND VACAY TIME


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

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



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



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



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

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

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

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

Finally.  On the way home.  The killer.

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

Someone please trade places with me.  ;-(



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

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

Jane's Fish & Chips

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recipe serves 4.  Enjoy!!!!



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

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

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

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

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

Jane x 

  

Friday, July 8, 2016

LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE & A GIVEAWAY!


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

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



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



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



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

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

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


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



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

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

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

Happy Weekend!

Jane x

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

Tahnsk, Jnea!