Friday, December 2, 2016


I want to thank all of you who read my last post which was previously published in Neighbors newspaper last December.  It was one of the longest articles I ever wrote, 16,000 words, and took up 2 pages.  A few asked how I could have so much to write and keep it organized.  Well, while I'm on my Tip Trip, let me clue you in.  For my blog posts, which I try to write once per week, I write straight from my head (and heart) mostly guided by recent photos I have taken.  If I have a thought or come across something I want to share, I add it to my Notes on my iPhone.  Simple.  But for this particular article for the newspaper, I broke everything down into categories starting with how I begin my holiday preparations.  I find this to be the easy part.  The difficult part is the proofreading.  I can do it 100 times and each time I'll find something wrong.  I finally have to just let it go.

So here is Part 2 of A Newspaper Article (or Holiday Tips By Blondie) minus me in my bathrobe.  Which I am now in.  Blame it on the Chicago cold weather.

If you've been reading my column each month you know I have a thing for pretty dining tables whether it be for special occasions, casual dinners or holidays.  I'm not pretentious by any means, I simply love the opportunity to be creative and make guests feel special.  I've also found so many ways to do a beautiful table on a dime, and I've written about those in the past.  You can find inexpensive dishes, napkins, candles, platters, vases and just about anything you need for making a beautiful table that reflects your style at stores like Marshall's, TJ Maxx, HomeGoods and Hobby Lobby just to name a few.  I love my Winterberry dishes from Pfaltzgraff and I collected each and every plate little by little over the years.  Until I had enough, I alternated simple white plates with the Winterberry---I'm crafty like that!  My silver is all mismatched, collected over time by many visits to antique and thrift shops.  I pick up napkins, place mats and tablecloths on sale or clearance.  Just a few ideas where you might be able to stretch the budget.  

And that brings to My Tip #9.  There is no reason to not use your everyday dishes,  Mine are quite plain.  If you want to jazz them up, lay your napkins on top of the plates and place your silverware on top.  No need to take the traditional route for placement all the time.  In fact when we deviate from the rules it's often quite interesting.  My Tip #10:  Paper napkins are absolutely wonderful but be sure to get something strong.  One of the things I like to do to jazz up paper napkins and take them up a notch is to pull out your holiday stamps and a few ink pads and stamp something cute on them.  Snowflakes, stars, Santa's...the ideas are all there in your stamping aisle at the local craft shop.  I have a whimsical reindeer stamp that I've used on everything from napkins to gift bags and tags, to the envelopes of my Christmas cards.  People love my little reindeer.  Sometimes  I even color his little nose in with a red pen! :)  So, the idea is to have fun and not worry about what the Jones' are doing.  

I'm going to consolidate gift giving with baking because so many of us who love to bake also love to give it away.  I do it year round because I would be bigger than a cow if it were in my home!  At Christmastime it has been a very longtime tradition to give food as a gift to those we love, including family, friends and anyone else you love or who cannot bake to save their life.  

Sometimes a cute inexpensive tray from the Dollar Store or your local Walgreen's  is the perfect way to hold a variety of your cookies and candies.  Handy little glassine bags and small boxes can be found at craft stores as well as little baskets that you can line with tissue paper.  Presentation is important now because you really want it to look like a gift, not a bag of leftovers.  Use colorful ribbon and bows to embellish your goodies.  And by all means, use those stamped bags I've been extolling the virtues of!  

Some of the easier treats to make and bake for me are Almond Bark Pretzel Rods (as seen in this picture), and bar cookies which can be sliced up to fill several boxes/bags.  And try some sweeter party mixes like Puppy Chow and Muddy Buddies, as well as an assortment of cookies.  Never rule out your own toasted nuts or maybe some caramel popcorn.  You can Google all of these recipes or find them on Pinterest.  And that is My Tip #10.  All of these treats are not only very simple,  they use a minimal amount of ingredients and each batch can be spread out for a great number of recipients.  Happily, they can all be made ahead.  Does it get any better?

And speaking of 'make ahead'.  My Tip #11.  I have and love recipes for 'make ahead' cookie and pie dough that you can freeze.  You can Google them or type them into a Search on Pinterest if you do that sort of thing.  I love that I can make up the dough, and then at a later time have the fun part of rolling put, cutting up, baking and decorating.  Like my method of wrapping gifts one day and decorating another, you don't tire yourself out to the point of losing the joy.  It also helps when you're busy, the process of making cookies or pie is half done.  Yay!

My Tip #12:  You may have heard of that very thoughtful gift of giving a Mason or Ball jar you've filled with all of the dry ingredients used in a cookie or cake recipe for example, even soups.  I love the idea and we can take it one step further to make life easier for ourselves.  For your own baking, mix all the dry ingredients for a particular recipe and store it in large jars or plastic bags tied up tightly until you are ready to make the whole batch.  You're halfway there when you are ready to go and then clean up is a snap.  Here I go again, dividing everything into halves!  Which brings me to My Tip #13.  Never feel like everything has to be homemade.  I'm not a fan of preservatives but that doesn't mean everyone is, so if you are making a huge batch of cookies, cakes or pies, go for the shortcuts of store bought mixes, pre-made cookie dough and pie crusts as well as canned fruits.  I really love the decorating part and it was always the highlight of baking with my daughters when they were young.  They lost interest during the actual baking in the oven.  Most mixes are perfected beyond belief so you will get a lot of bang for your buck, and your time and energy can be spent elsewhere.  Like just sitting back and watching It's A Wonderful Life.

My last few thoughts are on gift giving and doing that on a budget.  I simply can't tell you what to buy your husband or mother in law but I have a few ideas for gifts that may be perfect for many of those on your list simply because they take thought, can be tailor made, and have your personal touch.  Oh, and did I also say not break the bank?  Again, think gift bags as they can contain a variety of different shapes and sizes. And think of those odd numbers, for some strange reason they are just better.  So, My Tip #13.  

Gift bag ideas for your favorite people:

~~~2 pretty candles and a jar
of matchsticks (Yankee Candle and White Barn Candle Co. carry them).

~~~A cute mug with a few tea bags or packets of instant cocoa, and cinnamon sticks tied in a bundle

~~~A manicure kit from your fave drugstore, a few bottles of nail polish and a bottle of polish remover

~~~A package of soup mix, a few wooden spoons and a pretty potholder 

~~a clay flower pot, spade and some seed packets

***For the guys in your life***

~~~A gift bag with shave cream, a nice razor and aftershave cologne

~~~A knit cap, small ice scraper and insulted coffee mug

~~~Grill tools, an oven mitt and a Bobby Flay BBQ book (maybe a spray bottle for good measure!!!)

Just a few ideas.

The last of my crazy ideas, My Tip #?? (I've forgotten at this point!)  

~~~Do anything and everything in advance, especially cooking for the big day.  Do your side dishes a day or two before your celebration.  When I have run out of refrigerator space I have put my side dishes and cold items in the car in our garage.  Ha!

~~~Set your table the day before if possible.  If not, gather up everything you need from plates to silverware to glassware.  And also pull out the bowls and platters you will be using so you are not hunting through your cabinets at the last minute. 

~~Clean your house a few days before the big day, it's not going to accumulate a lot of dust after that point.  I always wanted everything to be freshly done and could be found vacuuming an hour before company arrived.  The only thing you need to worry about is tidying up the bathrooms as everyone will be using them.

~~~Get yourself ready first and foremost.  You can touch up your hair and make up later, and by all means, wear an apron so you don't have to change your clothes when the gravy splatters all over you.

~~~Have some simple appetizers planned.  No one expects to sit down for dinner the minute they arrive and some guests will arrive on an empty stomach.  Doing so will also give you a chance to relax with your company for a little bit, have a little bite and drink before you head back to the kitchen for the last of the preparations.   

~~It's tried and true advice to enlist help in the kitchen.  I personally don't like more than one or two people helping me out, my kitchen is not the biggest.  Ask your very best friend and/or someone who loves you unconditionally so you can bark orders and rely on them to do the dirty work-like washing dishes and taking out the trash.  Just kidding.  People like to feel needed.  And I always have fun chatting and laughing with someone while I'm slaving away.  It's also a good excuse to have a glass of wine at 11 a.m.  Cheers!

~~~Remember to relax.  Turn the heat down in the oven and hold back on rushing the rest so you have time to interact and enjoy the fun.  I also ask my kids to help clear the table after dinner so I can sit longer and visit with my guests.  Taking a walk after dinner with those who want to is so refreshing as well.  Forgive those who want to take a nap on the couch.  I hold off on dessert for an hour or more after dinner is cleaned up.   We have a bit of an appetite back then and the coffee wakes us up.  We have additional guests who have had other dinner plans that come later, too.  We often bring out more snacks and appetizers.  In my home the celebrating goes on until late.  And I sit back, have fun and watch my family and friends having a great time.  :)

~~~Last but not least, keep your expectations reasonable.  You can see the photo of my living room from Christmas of 2015.  It's so small that we had to move the coffee table out to accommodate our ever growing family.  That's okay, it's not about all of the fussing you've done, Christmas is a celebration and a time to reflect on the true meaning the season.  Everything else falls to the wayside.


As you can see, I have an enormous amount of ideas.  I know this is not the first time you have heard many of them  It just makes me happy to think some of you will be inspired to try a few new ideas or just simply enjoy the traditions you have and add to them.  My philosophy is to start planning and putting those plans into action a bit earlier---it's really not a bad thing.  I also want so many of you to feel that you don't have to be a Rockefeller to have a festive home and beautiful gifts while keeping  on your budget.  

It has been a wonderful year contributing to Neighbors.  I am so thankful to Phil Vitale for having the confidence in me to write these columns without knowing what he was in for.  I'm also chuffed by so many of you readers who have sent emails with questions, ideas and sincere compliments.  In the coming New Year I would love to include some of your decorating ideas, gardening tips, recipes and just about anything that you want to put out there.  Are you on board?

I'm going to sign off now.  Thanks to all of you for reading.  I'm so excited to see how 2016 unfolds for all of us in this beautiful part of the Midwest we call home.  I wish you joy, peace and happiness this holiday season.  Bless all of you.  

From my family to yours~~~

I'll be back early next week with a 'Live' post.  No lake this weekend as The Husband is working on a big trial and I will be decorating.  You can be sure the carols will be going strong, the hot cocoa flowing and maybe my 135th Hallmark movie on the television.   ;-D

Jane x

Sunday, November 27, 2016


In my bathrobe no less~

Hello, it's me...I know you guys know that time is going at warp speed.  Not having Internet/Wifi at the lake is really making it hard for me to keep up on all things I love and need to do.  With the holidays upon us I simply want a smooth ride.  So...many of you asked to read an article from the Northwest Indiana/Southwest Michigan newspaper I write for.  I'm sharing an article from last December.  In fact it's just half of the article and I'll share the rest another tIme soon.  

I am very straight forward about my blog...I share snippets of my life, a little bit of my loves which include cooking, gardening, reading and a myriad of so many other interests.  I never wanted to be  blog which had titles such as, "How to...".  For my newspaper I have a different approach and it suits what I want to share and in the way I want to share it.  Please note the difference and similarities.  I write for a huge community of people from all walks of life.  I strive to reach each and every person who reads this newspaper.  

So enjoy.  You may see photos you've seen before...sometimes bits and pieces from my blog.  It's all relative to me. Let me know how you feel in your comments. ;-D


Ho Ho Ho, Neighbors!   By now I bet most of you are caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  Christmas is my favorite holiday.  I love everything about it...making shopping lists, planning  menus, decorating and everything merry-making.  In the afternoon I have Christmas music playing whether it's on my iPad or TV music channels, and in the evenings I love Hallmark and TCM holiday movies.  I can't help it, I just get a little sappy at this time of year.  My hot mug of cocoa is half full.  :)

It's hard for so many of us to get through the commercialism of Christmas.  It seems to start earlier and earlier.  Our stores are filled with holiday items as soon as the Halloween merchandise is cleared off the shelves.  Our mailboxes are stuffed with catalogs and our email inboxes are full of ads, 'ideas' for gift giving and flash sales.  Every magazine is filled with an overabundance of articles on decorating and recipes and  features on people who live in homes we can't help but envy, decorated beyond what we have the time or budget to do.  I really do not spend a lot of thought or worry about any of these issues, I have learned how to make them work to my advantage. 

I really do love the excitement and anticipation of the holidays, just as I did when I was a little girl.  We are still sometimes overwhelmed with too much way too early.   But I make my lists and peruse those magazines, ripping out pages with ideas and decorating tips and recipes I may want to try.  Store and window displays always make me smile and sometimes you simply can't beat shopping early.  Some people are super good about shopping for gifts all year long, not so much me.  I love the holiday atmosphere; the music, the Salvation Army volunteers.  All of it makes me feel very warm and fuzzy inside.  So I suggest that rather than getting frustrated, grab hold of the reins and go for it.  Check off some boxes on your To Do list and enjoy some hot cocoa and sugar cookies while you're at it! 

I like to get organized to keep everything moving smoothly as I prepare for what I want to be THE best Christmas ever!  I think the little bit of time you invest in getting your ducks in a row saves you an enormous amount of time and energy later in the game.  I have a tendency to jump into gift shopping and then I have a menagerie of unsorted bags piled high in a spare room.  Nothing makes sense.  My Tip #1, put your presents in the appropriate gift box (that I hope you have already purchased ahead of time).  Make sure you enclose the gift receipt if you have one, or keep all of your receipts in a folder or envelope.   Then write the name of the recipient on the box and stack them away until you are ready to start the fun of wrapping gifts---and yes, I said fun!  

My Tip #2.  Get yourself a box or bin, it doesn't have to be fancy.  A little basket or plastic container, something large enough to hold all of your gift wrapping needs: a few rolls of Scotch tape, scissors, some felt tip markers in red and green, ribbon or jute twine, gift tags and bows.  You can keep this container in the area you like to wrap gifts (I do mine on my kitchen island).  When you are ready to call it a day, everything goes back into the bin and you can tuck it in a closet or under a bed, whatever works for you.   My Tip #3.  Keep your rolls of wrapping paper in a small hamper, tall basket or even a plastic bucket, anything that can hold several rolls upright to help you see what you have at a glance. I guess you can call this a tip of it's own but it's just so simple.  To keep those rolls of wrapping paper neat, secure and unwrinkled, take the cardboard roll from a used up roll of toilet paper or paper towels.  Cut a slit all the way through the roll lengthwise, like a little cuff.  When you are finished gift wrapping and still have more paper to use, slide this cuff over the middle.  It will keep the paper neat and ready for your next use.  No sticky tape to peel off which always tears away precious paper.  

Tip #4.  Wrapping paper can be expensive.  And wrapping packages takes time.  I love using gift bags when I can but forget the ones you see in the stores.  I go to a Dollar Store and buy up as many plain white gift bags as I can.  I a have few Christmas themed rubber stamps and three little pads of ink in red, green and brown.  I stamp my little brain out on these bags to hold smaller gifts.  Some inexpensive tissue also jazzes everything up and if you have one or more items in the bag, loosely enfold those in tissue, maybe even winding some twine or ribbon around--it makes the recipient feel like they are getting an abundance of love and thought.  And they are!  To keep my enthusiasm up I often wrap gifts and then at another time add cute tags, ribbon and bows.  The first part is about doing a neat job, the second about creativity.  By having a breather in-between, you will be much more inclined to put your personal touch on the package. 

One last thought on this subject and My Tip #5.  Use your wrapped presents as part of your holiday decor.  After all, by now you have carefully selected cute and festive paper and have lovingly added your sweet's not the time to hide things away (the exception being those for young kiddos, then you have to tuck them away from their prying little fingers!).  I actually have to do this with my daughters well into their 20's. lol!  So, have a pile of gifts on the hearth, some small packages on a cabinet or shelf or on a non-essential stool or chair in the kitchen or dining room.  They will be an added festive touch and brighten any room.

In my photos of holidays past, I'm sharing some little spaces I've decorated for Christmas.  I like to make little vignettes, or groupings that don't take up a lot of room but make a statement.  For a long time I simply took what I had: candles, figurines, and many a snowman, of which I have a big collection, and scattered them on every available surface.  When things are spread out in a room, or worse, throughout the house, you lose the visual impact.  My Tip #6.  Make little arrangements on anywhere you have the space.  I like something cute on my dining table, coffee table a corner of my kitchen countertop, even a window sill.  Whether you do this sparingly or go all out, mix things up; a sparkly candle with a basket of pinecones and potpourri, or a simple collection of angels nested on a bed of greenery.  It catches attention this way.  Grouping in odd numbers always look a bit more attractive as well, not sure why.   

I have to say something about themes.  My tree ornaments are a mish mash of treasures my husband and I found in the very early days of our marriage...nothing fancy.  Then we added handmade gifts that our four children made from their little handprints stamped on construction paper to small wreaths made of shredded wheat cereal and tons of glue!  We've added ornaments from places we have travelled to and of course, as our taste has changed, I've gone from homespun to blingy to nature  inspired.  Still, I enjoy hanging each and every ornament and the memories they bring back.  My personal favorites are the old and traditional glass ornaments that were passed on to me when I lost my parents.  Many are older than I am.  They are precious to me.  

I think it's very special when we can use nature to decorate our homes.  We love flowers from our garden in summer bouquets so why not take a walk around your garden and gather up pinecones, acorns, evergreen sprigs and branches.  Display them in a pretty dish or on a tray.  And that's My Tip #7.   I have a friend who gathers long sticks on her walks, spray paints them white to resemble birch and pokes them into her outdoor planters that also include evergreen and berries that have been given a little sprinkling of silver glitter.  

Inside the house I love using what I can find at the grocery store.  For My Tip #8: I might poke some cloves into oranges and limes to make a fragrant fruit bowl.  Throw in some cinnamon sticks for added natural fragrance.  Potpourri is very inexpensive and much better for your health than air sprays.  You can take the idea a little further by making an arrangement of seasonal fruits like apples, pears, pomegranates, and interesting squash.  Place them in a basket or  on a large platter with greenery as a little nest.  Add a candle or two and you have a lovely table centerpiece.  Use your imagination and perhaps what you have right outside your door.  And have fun while you save money!

I hope you enjoy this post---the first time I've ever done this.  Be back in real time in the next few days.

Jane xx

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


November 2016, Diamond Lake

By now I imagine not many of us are seeing carpets of leaves like this.  At the lake we had an abundance covering the grass and our brick patio.  We planned to go up this past weekend armed with rakes and a leaf blower but we woke up and knew there would be a huge change of plans.  After we arrived the snow started about 3 a.m., with 20+ m.p.h winds.  It was blowing sideways.  If we wanted to clear the leaves we needed shovels, not rakes.  It was even more disappointing that we had invited son Kevin, Mary Clare and little Elsie for the weekend.  It had been so pleasant the weekend before, I thought Elsie would have a ball playing in the leaves and going for a walk along the shore.  I made a stop at the grocery store (we still haven't done a good shopping but we will once we are ready to be there consistently).  I had hot chocolate and marshmallows, Teddy Grahams, pancake mix and bacon for breakfast as well as a few toys to fill a basket just for cold or rainy days.  I think grandmothers do least I'm inclined, but we had to have them cancel, the roads seemed too treacherous.  

November 2016, Summerhouse

This is an opposite view of the picture above.  This is our guest house, or the Summerhouse as we call it.  Note: The same maple tree.  One of the best things I ever did was insist we hang on to this tree when so many were removed to extend our patio and build the Summerhouse.  The mason went around it with the brick pavers and left a circle of drainage around.  It's one happy tree.  I have three birdhouses hanging from it and I love to see the varieties coming and going.  Someday I hope I'll be able to identify a few.  ;-D 

Inside we have made so much progress.  The Husband has been working on the garage which had a lot of damage as one side was just below the bathroom where the pipe broke.  Inside I finally finished unpacking those freaking boxes.  Seriously, it seemed never ending.  And I learned a huge lesson.  You just don't need all the baggage.  I have filled 4 nice size cartons with items for the annual lake yard sale in June.  I have yet to go through the artwork...not much close to my heart any more.  There were times when we hung pieces to fill up space.  Nevermore.  And I'm really happy with not trying to 'fill spaces'.  I think time will tell.  

I've been sharing pics of the progress here on Instagram.  If you want to follow, there is an icon on my sidebar.  I post every two days and you don't have to listen to my drivel as you may find on this blog.  I try not to repeat photos so in this blog post I'm sharing another part of the lake kitchen with open shelving other than the opposite wall which is larger.  I've always kept my glassware on this side but I thought I'd break it up a bit with some cereal bowls and decorative pieces.  It was looking really 'reflective' with the glass.

If I splurged on anything it was new dishes, and I mean everyday dishes.  I have this drive to mismatch everything.  Colors, textures, rustic and refined.  Sometimes this sort of thing confuses people and then again, it might make some think you're on to something they weren't.  ^^ ^^

I chose three patterns of dishes I absolutely loved from Anthropology And continuing the totally random theme I had twelve place settings but spread it out over four of this, three of that, 6 of that.  Totally confusing!  I love to share my insanity.  

2016, Lakehouse powder room 

The Husband and I both chose pedestal sinks.  Say what?  Well, if you know The Husband and I, we totally clash on as many things just as we bond.  It was only natural that he presided over the upstairs bathroom and I, the downstairs powder room.  Sounds like he had more space to design but I have more visitors!!!!  Hard to photograph a small space like this (and keep yourself out of the reflection of the mirror) so it's not such a great shot.  I was really chuffed however, when I want into town on Sunday and visited our little 'junctique" store.  Said 'junctique' store now has a huge collection of gorgeous antique furnishings and a lot of vintage items.  Had I not been in the purge mode I could have really stopped to consider a few things.  Still, I spotted this little old stool and it was love.  I needed something in this bath to break up the pastel, summery feel which was getting a bit overwhelming.  Of course it won't always hold toilet tissue, I don't have that little detail installed yet, but it will be a little something for the kids to climb on to reach the sink and wash their little mitts.  More pics to come...Again, I'm getting the feel and taking my time (so unlike me).

Say hello to my jade plant.  A true hero in my eyes.  This huge guy was almost twenty years old when I bought it at an estate sale.  And I've had it for ten years.  When we first saw the flooded out house I was in such shock that it never occurred to save anything much less potted plants.  The insurance company had a service company pack up and take away our belongings within 2 weeks.  When we began moving back in this past Labor Day, I happened to be in the crowded mess of our garage and behind one of our boats something caught my eye.  And there was my survivor.  It had fallen over at some point as you can see on the somewhat barren left side, but it was 80% green, alive and well.  Eighteen months without water or sun!  It's a succulent but it still amazed me that it beat the odds.  I cleaned him/her up and he/she is thriving in the sun again.  Long live Jade!

And talking about rescue, daughter Abby and Tom had been talking about having a dog for ages.  They visited PAWS Chicago several times and fell in love with this Husky Shepherd mix, Squall.  There were several obstacles, no one to blame.  One night when they were sure they'd be able to finalize everything, the facility was closed for some reason.  Abby lost it many times thinking he wouldn't be there.  But he ultimately was and he's home with them and getting showered with love.  An eight month ball of fun, he is so loving and friendly.  It breaks my heart that he has spent his whole life up until now in a shelter.  Thankfully the rescue animals are housed together in a single room with crates to sleep in.  Makes you believe in happy endings.

And finally, we can't forget the birth of our little granddaughter, Madelyn (affectionately called Maddy).  I can't begin to thank all of you for your kind comments.  Emily read each and every one.  I am loving every minute with her, she is a miniature Emily.  Mike is infatuated with her, and Rusty is quite protective in spite of looking a little envious in this photo.  

We had some scares...I'll try to keep it brief (yeah, right).  Her pregnancy was without a glitch.  She went into labor on November 10th just after midnight.  She called to let me know they were on the way to the hospital and as planned, they would call when all was said and done and they were settled.        About an hour later I received a call from Mike (I sleep with my phone under my pillow.  Doesn't everyone?).  His voice was a little shaky.  The baby's heart rate was going up and down and they had rushed Emily into an operating room.  The Husband and I dressed in about 60 seconds and headed to the hospital, thankfully just 5 minutes away.  But it was insane.  At 2:00 a.m. all the doors were locked with directions to try other doors.  We tried parking in two garages and walked what seemed like blocks only to find we had to try another way in.  By the time we sat down in the proper waiting room it hit me hard.  My daughter was in surgery for the first time and  perhaps this little baby had a serious heart problem.  No one plans this.  I was on the verge of crying when Mike bounded into the room dressed in scrubs from head to toe.  My heart stopped for a second and then he smiled that big smile and gave us the thumbs up.  Man, oh man.  We couldn't see Em or the baby but we were up the next morning.  Emily was in pain and tired.  I was able to stay most of the afternoon and hold this precious bundle while she slept.  Madelyn is doing very well, she rarely cries and sleeps a lot.  Can I say she is loved by tons of family and friends?  I'll share more pictures as she changes, that's for sure!  

I have to also share that my two daughter's in law are both doing very well in their pregnancies.  We are so excited to have even more babies in the family.  It's not overwhelming at all, I'm just loving this new phase in my life.  And please have a look at the most recent picture of Elsie on my sidebar from her Christmas photo shoot.  Isn't she precious?  She is growing and changing by the minute.  We all just love her so much.  

And in summary, can you believe Thanksgiving is in two days?  I'm feeling pretty good about delegating a few main dishes to those who wanted to help.  Hopefully I can focus on being with the family.  I have tons to do in decluttering a few rooms.  We have, at last count, 26 coming for dessert. Sounds unbelievable but as Nana used to say, "I love a crowd.  People mingle."  As if they could do anything else.   Dinner is pretty manageable but I like extended family and friends for dessert and we love to go well into the night.  Many times we've reheated appetizers and made a batch of popcorn.

My first newspaper article for the Chicago suburb paper was published last week.  I bought three copies.  It was and is an incredible feeling.  A few years ago I never would have thought I'd be here.  Blogging has been invaluable in helping me with writing.  So many of you have given me encouragement over the years with my writing.  I want all of you to know that I have always fallen back on that when I've thought I couldn't possibly be published.  

 I'll end my long droning on with a wish for all of you, my friends.  Have a wonderfully perfect, festive and blessed Thanksgiving.  I have a huge amount of thankfulness for your friendship, encouragement and all around interest in this little old blog.  Sending good wishes and love,


Jane x

Thursday, November 10, 2016


NOVEMBER 10, 2016
2:21 A.M.
7 LBS., 7 OZ.
20 IN.




Thursday, November 3, 2016


Hello November.  I am so happy to see you in all your glory (finally).  I wish I had a picture of the yellow leaves from the many walnut trees in my backyard.  It's a natural carpet.  Sometimes when I let the dogs out and stand on the porch it seems to be raining leaves.  We've had a lot of rain lately and I absolutely love how the leaves are matted to the ground, glistening and showing no sign of being swept away.  

I'm also loving bringing out my sweaters and boots.  I like small doses of muted colors, there's something about the earthy colors and layers.  Are we mimicking fall?  Wanting to stand out against the cold gray skies of winter?  We know how to dress for the elements here.  And we're smart.  And of course, I love an excuse to switch up my wardrobe.  

I want to share an article I recently read online.  I think you guys know that I devour information; fact, fiction, trivia, pop culture and name it.  I thought I'd share some links here and there  in some of my posts in case the subjects interests you.  

Perusing Yahoo News, I came across an article regarding the 'correct age' a woman should stop wearing jeans.  Did your jaw just drop?  Read the article here.   


Now you know I wasn't going to post without mentioning the big win by the Chicago Cubs last night.    What a game.  Emotions were up and down much like we were from our seats (or stools).  We (mostly family) met at an Irish pub that my sister in law owns here on the Southside. and had a nice table in front of several TV screens.  I loved that one was closed captioned.  We had a ball; pizza, buckets of beer and lots of high fives.  I nearly didn't go out at all and I'm so glad I did.

Me and Abby.  I'm the one with my hat askew.  

Emily couldn't be there as she s due to have the baby any time now.  Son Jeff has been literally flying back and forth between Chicago and Cleveland.  He Face Timed us around the 8th inning.  I could be wrong but I sort of felt he wished he were here with us in Chicago celebrating although there wasn't a huge lack of Cub fan at Progressive Field.  

What a night!  The parade is tomorrow.  I had an appointment downtown and rescheduled it.  It will be craaaaaazy.  Abby. who lives just a few blocks from Wrigley Field has been a regular guest here.  Even when the Cubs were away, the celebrating in Wrigleyville was loud.  As our mayor, Rahm Emanuel said, "For once we don't have to say, 'Well, there's always next year'!"

No, no, no.  I am not wrapping Christmas gifts yet, I pulled this from last years photo files.  I was thinking about the reasons I didn't decorate for fall.  Other than some little pumpkins and a basket of apples, nothing.  On Halloween (was that just four days ago?) I went downstairs to my storage/hoarding room to find an orange scarf I like to put on Milo.  The room is chaotic with messy cartons and bins which were once categorized by the seasons and holidays.  It has become an aching pain in the arse as it's such a disaster and it's going to take forever to get in order.  In order to have decorated with some of the really cute things I have for fall, I would have had to move some of the clutter from my living spaces.  That would mean bringing it down to storage and making a bigger mess.  I'm spewing secrets here.  

I have a major goal to declutter before Thanksgiving.  I am going to pack up everything I don't need or hold close to my heart and add it to the lakehouse pieces for the lake garage sale in June.  Need is the key word here.  No matter which store I walk into; Target, HomeGoods, Kohls or Marshall's...there is never really going to be anything I need.  What I need is a diversion for when I feel cooped up.  This mess has finally caught up with me.  

I hear so many of us say that we are going to go lighter on this or that holiday, we are going to purge clutter.  Boy, I'm right there with everyone else.  I'm on a mission now and I hope as these next few months go by that I can share some of the things I'm going to do to resolve this problem.  In the meantime I want to share another article I read that might give you food for thought.  It's about clutter and you can find it here.  I've read many similar articles on this subject but this actually makes sense.  See a little pattern going on?  I want to pass some interesting ideas along to you as I find them relating to my life.  Simply click the link if you think it might be interesting.  

I am super influenced when a blogger recommends a book, in this case, books.  In a short description I can decide if it sounds interesting to me.  I then go to Amazon and read the low down and reviews.  Sometimes I hit the Order Now and the following day it's on my porch.  These books are by author Ellen Stimson.  To quote the cover of her first book, Mud Season: "How one woman's dream of  moving to Vermont, raising children, chickens and sheep and running The Old Country Store, pretty much led to one calamity after another."  And there is a continuation of her story in Good Grief.  The last book is a great hardcover of the author's traditions, recipes and photos for an old fashioned Christmas.  

I want to thank Courtney who writes the blog Golden Boys And Me, who made me dive in head first to order.  I can't wait to curl up in my favorite chair once the wind starts to howl and immerse myself in these books.   And by the way, you will love Courtney's blog so sign up to follow!

I so apologize for not giving you the correct link for the newspaper, The Reporter, that I will now be writing for.  I was really chuffed that some of you wanted to have a peek.  This is the correct website.  As far as viewing  the paper online, you will need to check that out...I don't think it will be for free.  After my article is published the third week of every month I think I'll post it here if you'd like.  

I can write between 500 to 600 words in my column.  When I submitted my article yesterday (and believe me, I had writer's block and extreme anxiety beforehand), I used a website called Word Counter Tool.  I had to revise and edit my article a few times as I kept going over my allotment.  I know all of you are well aware that my blog posts are veeeeeeery long.  For the heck of it I copy and pasted my December 2015 article for the Michigan newspaper on the website.  That's it above.  I knew it had to my longest article and yep, hang on to your hats... 16,616 words.  I've often felt I don't write posts, I write essays.  If you guys skip or skim I totally don't blame you.  

On that note I'm going to wind this post up.  And it is with something that is very special.  Son Kevin and Mary Clare are expecting another baby in May!  I am so, so excited for them.  Elsie will have a little brother or sister.  They are just so good at parenting, I just know that as their family grows, we will all be blessed.  So... three of my four kids are expecting.  The odds against something like that is  like the odds against the Cubs winning!  Emily and Mike are ready for Madelyn Elsie to be here next week.  Son Jeff and Deirdre will welcome their baby in early February, and then Kevin and MC will add to their little family in May.  It is raining babies!  Say a prayer for all of these special people.  I'll keep you posted!

See you all soon!

Jane x

P.S.  On a totally different side note I want to mention something about what I wrote in my last post regarding finding a ton of my treasures in the dumpster at the lakehouse.  I think the way I worded it made it looks like The Husband had tossed this stuff away and that's my fault.  So I have to correct myself and let you know it wasn't him (believe me, he'd be walking bent over right now).  The service people hired by the insurance company cleaned out a section of the garage that had water damage.  Sadly, it looks as if they were in a hurry as they tossed a lot of good stuff.  Gladly I was able to salvage most of it.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Take me out to the ballgame.  Notice this is a blue font?  Well, it's always blue font but it now means more.  GO CUBS!

As first baseman, Anthony Rizzo said, "Chicago needs this."  

I'm so glad to be back on a somewhat timely basis.  If you read my last post, you know I've been struggling with a discipline dilemma as my schedule gets more and more busy.   All of you ladies were so honest in describing your own issues with getting everything done and the pressures we put on ourselves to live up to that sort of expectation.  I really love your support and I hope you continue to read and reflect on some of the areas I want to go to in the future.  I will always post anything and everything about decor, gardening, recipes, good reads, travels, extreme tangents and hysterically insane happenings with The Husband (which are entirely his fault) get the picture.  

So onward and upward to decor.  Back at the lake:  I have a little conversation area in a corner of the Great Room.  Actually it's my favorite little spot as it is smack dab in front of the huge glass windows that looks out at the bay.  As opposed the the sofa and loveseat which are positioned around the fireplace, these are the best seats in the house.  For over twenty years we have had the same settee and glider rockers in this space and we can't imagine giving any of these pieces up.  The rockers are beyond comfy and the camel back settee is still solid, the cushions impeccably firm.  So we decided to upholster these pieces.  The rockers were very simple.  They have seat and back cushions which are attached.  Below you can see the fabric I chose.  

Above you can see the fabric I picked out for the settee.  I'm bringing soft blue and grays into the house but I don't want to be blocked into that color so its subtle.  I can't wait to share pics but we aren't there yet.  

These pieces should be done in  January.  I'm so excited.  

 We have had a little round table in the middle to set our drinks and books on.  I think I've posted it before but I'm too lazy to go back in my posts to find a picture.  Ha....  I painted the table with chalk paint and thought I was very cool and on the game but nothing can deny the table was a simply ugly to begin with.  Outdated and vintage are totally different so the table will be down at the curb should you be in Southwest Michigan in January.  Any who, I received an email that Pier 1was having a sale on ottomans and after looking at coffee tables to  replace said ugly little table, I knew that I had to find something smaller.  Ta Da...there you see it above.  I ordered it in Taupe in light of the patterns I have going on in the furniture fabric.  I love the tufted top and nailhead detail.  It's very sturdy as well.  I've bought furniture from Pier 1 and it hasn't disappointed me.  On smaller items my mindset is: if I can't get it cheaper elsewhere, if it's really original or on clearance, then I'm okay.

Speaking of junk, the last time we were up at the lake I was working away inside and The Husband was cleaning out the garage.  He called me to give him a hand with something.  We still have a dumpster in our driveway which is overflowing.  I helped him carry a few heavy pieces over.  It was in miserable pouring rain and of course I was barefoot.  When I got a close look at the dumpster I nearly collapsed in a puddle.  So many of my treasures, my favorite pieces that had been packed in the garage had been tossed away.  Things that were in perfect condition.  Outdoor candles, glass holders, lights, garland, 4th of July decorations.  Beloved signs and beachy decor pieces.  A beautiful set of glass jars filled with sand to hold votives which were a gift from Pottery Barn.  It was all fine albeit a little wet.  I started to paw at it, tears running down my face in the rain.  The Husband thought I was nuts.  "These are perfect.  Why?  Why were they thrown away?" I cried.  Thankfully no one had come along and taken them so I made trips back and forth to save what I could.  I guess it ended up being my own dumpster diving experience.  I'm just so grateful I was there before the monster was hauled away.  Sheesh, long story!

For all the excitement Saturday night, realizing we were going to the World Series, there is a feeling of being on edge with these final games.  I still think hometown glory and pride can do a tremendous amount of good, win or lose.  There have been so many folks waiting for this moment after 108 years since Chicago was in the World Series.  If you are that old you may remember that.  Okay, Jimmy Fallon said that tonight...shoot me.  

I have to share this Facebook post my very, very sweet sister in law, Mary Jane, wrote about my brother.  He and I were texting throughout the game.  He is not only a longtime Cubs fan but he has a 45+ year career of teaching high school and coaching baseball in southern Indiana.  In fact, he's in the Indiana Hall of Fame.  MJ wrote:

"He was born on the South side of Chicago, and saw his first game at Wrigley Field with his beloved grandpa at age 5.  When he would visit his grandparents in the summer, his grandma would pack him his lunch, and at the age of 11 he would catch the bus and go alone to watch them play.  He would pay .50 for a bleacher seat and be sure to get there early to watch them practice beforehand.  Very few times in our married life have I seen him shed a tear.  Tonight was one of those nights."

Me and my brother, John (2015)  Louisville, KY

I mentioned in my last post that The Husband had tickets for the game and thankfully they were for Saturday, the night the Cubbies won.  As comedian/actor and long time Cubs fan, Bill Murray said...people in Miami, Seattle and such don't get it.  We've waited for this forever.  

 The Husband and our son, Jeff, were there together as well as Kevin but he was in a swankier place with his people from work!!  I have a great video they took from the bleachers but I can't seem to load it.  I'll keep trying.  I was by my lonesome but I had the excitement of a zillion fireworks going off, Milo, totally frightened and trying to crawl under the sofa, and Layla vomiting.  Can I say I'm dreading July 4th?  My saving grace was that my men could not possibly hit the bars in Wrigleyville with the crowds and they were home by midnight with McDonalds.  Yes!

Finally...a HUGE thank you to all of you ladies who congratulated me on my new writing job!  I felt your confidence and it boosted mine.  We have such a great community and I feel something so powerful and real.  I think I'm going to be okay. :)

You can look at the Reporter online at the Reporter.  I will have an article every third week of the month (this is a weekly newspaper).  I will also have feature articles and I'll definitely let you know when that happens.  Again, thanks for your best wishes.

Jane x

Friday, October 21, 2016


Hey everyone!  I really thought I'd cave and bring up more fall stuff but I haven't.  I'm still thinking I'll have an excuse to go downstairs and take a peek at what I have but I've been neglecting laundry, too, so I haven't been down there much. it a funk?  I have to get in gear.  The holidays are going to be in swing just weeks from now.  As much as I say I'm going to do tons ahead of time, well, that never happens, and at this rate I may only have a Charlie Brown tree with that one lone red ornament.   In fact, the more time I think I have, the more I add to my list of brilliant things to do, and thats a no~no for all of us.   

I sort of feel a surge of energy in the evening, a second wind of sorts.  Maybe its just that ahhhhh feeling that the day is over.  Last week while feeling this way I grabbed my phone during a commercial on TV and under Notes made this list:

Challenges/Goals/Advice to myself

Go to bed day early...get up early
Discipline is the key to success
No whining.  Be tough and get it done
Treat everyone with kindness
No gossip or complaining about others
Stick to calendar
Complete To Do's or make up next day
Don't let fatigue or burn out make you veer off plan
Push on always
Have a me day
Forget stress 

I wasn't sure if this was something I wanted to post.  I feel it's overly ambitious, rigid and somewhat sad.  A bit hilarious, too, I might add. The pressure we put on ourselves often doesn't make sense to others much less ourselves but sometimes I think we need to look at ourselves in the brutal, cold light of day.  I know my faults...a ton of procrastination and lack of discipline.  I'm thinking I'll have to revise this list or maybe, do as so many recommend, make a list of all I've accomplished in a day.  Or a list of my blessings.  And that list will be much, much longer.  I've opened up a bit here and I hope you weigh in.  Do you set up expectations for yourself?  Maybe you just roll with it all.  As we get older and hopefully wiser, does life get easier?  I'm getting all introspective here and that's very un-Blondie~like but we all have our moments.  ;-D

I'm going on two years of writing for what I call 'The Lake Newspaper' but it is actually distributed in thirteen towns and twenty-two lakes in Southwest Michigan.  I should give it more credit than I do.  I love writing and I've said before, my columns are much like my blog, a lot of touching on this and that with recipes and a bit of my own experience in gardening and decorating.  I love how free and fun it can be to write an article that might get people to laugh and maybe try something new and different.  Experiment with a new recipe.  Set a pretty table.  Plant a little herb garden.   I just love what I do. 

I've been working hard for the past few weeks on something but I didn't want to curse anything or create any expectations.  I sure could have used some prayers but finally, I got the great 'news' last week and I've got a job!


I have a true blue professional job as a writer of a column for a regional newspaper here in Chicago.  Actually, the paper serves several towns/villages in suburbs adjacent to the city.  I am beyond thrilled.  I never thought I could sell the idea of a lifestyle column to a paper that has been in circulation for over fifty years, much less get the job as a writer!  There were times when I had to make follow up calls and I thought it was hopeless, but by the grace of God, this editor gave me a chance.  

A large part of my job will be seeking out stories in the community.  I'm thinking I may just change my name to Lois Lane (Ha!).  I will be writing a column and can also submit articles for possible features.  

I had the confidence of many people, including my children.  One of these sweeties had a bit of doubt, "Mom...there are people who have degrees in journalism that can't get writing jobs.  Don't go here."  She had good intentions, didn't want me to be let down.  I felt I had nothing to lose and I think I pushed harder because I don't feel we should have limitations based on preconceived ideas of background, education  or age.  I've done a lot of soul searching in how I want to spend the second half of my life.  My kids are off and running.  The Husband still has his career of over forty years with no sign of giving it up despite threats (gulp).  I think I'm really doing well.  The glass is definitely more than half full.  Wish me luck.

On to the decorating front.  Just some small changes besides apples and pumpkins on the dining table, some little Cinderella pumpkins on the mantel as I shared in my last post, and this vignette on the coffee table.  I've always loved this basket made out of wood and chicken wire and it works so well in autumn as well as winter.  I added some old books, glass candle holders filled with cinnamon scented potpourri and a few candles.  And I finally  found a copy of Bella Grace that everyone has been talking about.  It jumped out at me on a recent trip to Michael's.  I'm savoring it little by little.  

It's so hard to get a good photo of the glass coffee table (Hello area rug!).  Hope you get the picture.  

On the lakehouse front...I have been decorating the guest rooms and started off with bedding.  I think that pretty much captures the style and colors you want to go with.  Funny, the room my daughters shared, or the Gulls Room, has always stayed feminine and that's stayed the same.   I chose this floral  8 piece set from JC Penney.  It was a fantastic deal and once it arrived I was really happy with the quality.  The comforter is super soft.   Isn't it pretty?  I wanted something sort of happy and carefree in this room.  Emily and Abby have accused me of being very old ladylike when it comes to florals but they approved of this.  Funny thing is, I was going to make up all the guest room beds last weekend and then I thought, no one is really going to be here until next spring, why take these things out of the packages to get dusty?  So I washed all the comforters I previously had and made up the beds for now.  And its nice to see the rooms so fresh and clean after the sad, sad state of the house eighteen months ago after the water damage.  Makes me smile from ear to ear.  :-D

 I still can't help but call the other guest room the buoys (boys) room, and I wanted a little bit of nautical.  I found these  comforters (which also come as duvets) at Target.  This one is from the Industrial Shop.  Is this new to any of you guys?  I love it.

This is from the Beekman 1802 Farmhouse line at Target as well.  This fits perfectly with what I want.  I have three twin beds in this room so I mixed them up.  I can't wait to see how everything looks.  I have months to choose the details.  I'm having a ball!

Last weekend was a nice time at the lake in spite of working non stop to continue emptying boxes and the never ending clean up of drywall dust.  As I said, we bought a Swiffer and a Swiffer Wet Jet.   The Wet Jet worked like a charm getting up the  drywall dust and dirt but it sort of pushed regular old dust and dog hair around.  We chose a dark stain for the new wood floors.  My son has them and strongly discouraged us from getting them as they show every little speck.  I'm stubborn but he was right.  A friend stopped by and she said in between a good washing she uses an old fashion rope mop which she sprays with a little Pledge or Endust.  I'm wondering if any of you can pass tips on.  My floors here in the city are a pretty old and not so shiny oak and only look good after a good wash with Murphy's Oil Soap.  I don't mind at all, these floors have made it through endless pets and children that I actually let rollerblade through the house.  Really.  I'm older and fussy now.  At least until those little grandkids want to wreak havoc in the lakehouse (and I'll let them because I'm a softie).  So...weigh in on your method of keeping your wood floors looking good.

No lake this weekend.  The Husband has tickets to the Cubs game Saturday night (Go Cubbies!).  He's going with son Jeff.  He actually gave his tickets to both Jeff and Kevin but Kevin's employer has clubhouse seats.  And poor Abby lives a stone's throw from Wrigley Field and the traffic, noise and general partying is deafening.  She's coming here.  If they win we will have all the fireworks and celebrating but my area is more full on White Sox.  The Northside and Southside are like that but we are united when it comes to a winning team. lol!

Last thing.  Here's a link to get your very own Nasty Woman T shirt.  Get them while they (we) are hot.  They are $25 with 50% going to Planned Parenthood.

That's it for now.  See ya soon!

Jane x