Tuesday, December 16, 2014

MY 2014 CHRISTMAS HOME TOUR PART 1 (?)

I promised myself a simple and pretty look for Christmas and I think I held true to that.  The problem is it seems, it takes more time to pick and choose what I want from the many bins I have,  and then that little voice in my head chanting, "Too much?  Too little?" lol!  So I did my best.  This poor little poinsettia nearly didn't make the show.  I picked her up at a garden nursery where we found our tree.  Afterwards we went out for a light dinner and brought the leftovers home in brown bags.  Yep, you guessed it, she was stored in the fridge alongside the hamburgers and pasta!  A little shriveled at first but I think we're okay.  Next to my survivor are a few vintage ornaments from my childhood days.  Thank you, Dad.  Hope you're smiling on us from heaven.






This is the natural wood and grapevine "window" I found at L.L. Bean.  I can't wait to see it when there is some snow outside.  So far it has missed us.  Very odd compared to last year.  Parts of Northern Illinois have gotten it, not us.



If you click on the picture to see it larger, you can see the mantel better.  I seemed to gravitate to a 'tree' theme without knowing it.  I found the woolly trees last year at Windsor, and then this year I found the candles on the right at Crate & Barrel and I thought they were so sweet together.  At the garden nursery I came upon these mini cypress trees, and voila, a little winter wonderland with just some greenery and candles.  A little more than the 'simple" I wanted but I to have that candlelight! :)












Little touches in the master bedroom, home of my never ending insomnia.  I actually ordered two red standard size ticking stripe shams from Pottery Barn and they sent me one standard and one European.  Waiting on the standard (which went on sale by the way ;-)  More little sweet treasures around,,,just too gloomy to give them justice, but I will.  :)


A little greenery in the bathroom.  I used to keep magazines in this basket but they would get warped and shrivel from the steam!  Ha!


In the bathroom, I  used one of those Mason jar candles I made awhile ago, you can see how here.  Some red ticking hand towels and some Christmasy soaps and that's it for the shelves.  :)



And yes, this was a bittersweet time at the lake at the memorial for my friend Bob.  Thank you for your prayers.  It was held at his and Sharon's home and thank goodness their house is large...there were tons of people.  Food and sweets and wine, a party Bob would have loved.  Still..so sad that I will never see him again, he was such a huge part of my life at the lake.  Rest in peace, dear man, and love and prayers to your precious family.

Sunday was a wonderful 50 degrees in most of the upper Midwest and on my lake.  I pulled up a chair on the patio and sipped a big mug of tea to keep me warm.  Layla rolled in the grass and Milo ran all over our property in search of new smells that will most likely disappear once we get really cold.  


Lastly, I want you to hop over to my friend Elaine's blog.  She is having a great giveaway. And...read how she met Matthew Mead!  Yikes! We have been friends for a long time and she writes about life in Boston and the New England area.  Sigh...such a beautiful part of our country.  Visit her at Cafe Chatelaine.



Joining these Christmas Home Tours:
Shabby Story (Thank You, Lynn)
&
The Nester (Thank You Myquilyn) 
&
Rooted In Thyme (Thank You Stan And Jody!)

\Jane xx 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A LITTLE HOLIDAYNESS




Oh, can you see that the top third of the tree is not lit?  The Husband and Abby were stringing the lights last night and a string went "poof",  I have to make a run for lights and attempt that although I've never strung them before, The Husband has a ritual of doing this with one of the children (which always leaves them in tears, if you know what I mean).  I think I can manage if I want to get the ornaments on any time soon.  Wish me luck.  This is a beast of a tree.  We have to move it into the corner instead of in front of the window as it juts out so far.  As usual we overestimated the size of our living room.  Sigh.





So I seem to be having my granddog, Tulo, here for days on end as the happy couple go here and there,  Can you believe he is only eight months old?  He clearly decided that if Milo can get on the furniture, he can.  Like a typical grandchild, he's not allowed in the kitchen, upstairs or even on an area rug in Jeff's house, but here...no limits.  I just love the big moose.  



Clam Chowder

Heat 2 T of butter in a large pot over medium/low heat.  Add 1 medium sized onion, finely diced, as well as a 2 stalks of chopped celery. Saute until softened, about 3-5 minutes.  Stir in 3 T. of flour and 2 c. chicken or vegetable stock.  Whisk well, and then add the juice of 2 10 oz. cans of minced clams.  I actually could only find the six ounce cans so I used three for a total of 18 oz.  Just fiddle with this a bit.  Reserve the clams until later.  Add 1 c. of heavy cream, 2 bay leaves and 1 pound (about 3 large) Idaho potatoes, chopped in small cubes.  Bring to a simmer while stirring, it will thicken, then reduce to medium low and cook another 20 minutes until potatoes are tender.  Add the clams and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook another 2 minutes and serve.  This recipe makes approximately 6 servings.  I also lightly broiled slices of a baguette that I brushed with a combination of melted butter, olive oil and dry Italian herbs.  Croutons work well also.  Enjoy!

As I said earlier in this post, life is not a Hallmark movie and when we lose someone we love during the holiday season, it's a sharp jab in the heart that cruelly takes us away from the joy we are expecting.  We lost our dear friend, Bob, Tuesday morning.  I wrote about him at the end of September (this is the link if you want to read my post).  He was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and with what I am sure, was immeasurable courage, carried on for 3 short months.  It's hard to put my feelings into words.  He was the man that built my house at the lake with just his own two hands.  When I first met him I was a bit intimidated...big and gruff, he turned out to be a sweet, humble man that I so enjoyed being around.  He loved his quiet lake life, returning home on weekends after driving a semi truck all week.  He loved to play the piano at the many cocktail parties he and his wife, Sharon held.  He would lift my kids in the air and scare them to pieces, he showed The Husband all the ropes at our home and gave him tips on lake living.  And for me, well, I'll always remember his bright blue eyes lighting up, twinkling when he saw me, arms stretched out for a hug, "Good to see you, Blondie."  Love you, Bob.  We will be up at the lake for the memorial Saturday.  Say a prayer for his family and friends if you can.

I'm going to focus on the joy as best I can and tackle this mess I have here.  I hope to be back soon.

Jane xx



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A LITTLE VINTAGE NEVER HURT ANYONE


Anyway, this couple in this little neighborhood sell their vintage finds from their home (front porch and garage) and Emily has the goods on their advertisements.  So it was the second time for us and we had a ball as usual.  I love seeing bloggers have, those who collect vintage pieces.  I personally love a little bit of old and chippy, but I lean toward the rustic as opposed to vintage.  Well, sometimes you just have something speak to you and you just don't care if it's a part of your repertoire, it's the beauty of feeling something in your heart and soul.  I'll share a few items later...the lady was quite negotiable and we were pleasantly surprised with our loot for the amount we paid.  We each got one of these windows for ten buckaroos.  And me, vowing to never get another window!  They are just so fun to dress up for the seasons and holidays.




I'll also give links (in care any of you are expecting the stork). 

We are planning a small party (25-30 ladies) here in my home.  Since space is at a minimum. we are not having a sit-down luncheon...more like a finger food/cocktail party.  Some savory and sweet offerings; some bought, some make by moi.  A signature drink or punch and a bit of wine.  Coffee and tea.    Just intimate and fun.  I'll definitely keep you posted.  And yes, in addition to Christmas, my mind is reeling in a few directions.  But I have to be used to this by now. 

 


M is a self taught fashion stylist, one of the many "hats" she wears, and works at a consignment shop in her little downtown area.  She helps the ladies dress stylishly with the clothes offered...many of them looking or wanting to dress nicely for employment.  If you look closely at this picture or enlarge it...all of the boxes are from Marshall Fields, that iconic Chicago mainstay until about 10 years ago.  In fact, the square box in the lower right corner held her late mother's wedding dress.  Yes, it was a vintage day and gave me a whole new perspective on the treasures we can find from the past.  



Turkey Teterazinni has never been very appealing to me.  I've made it and found it really tasteless. Sort of bland and dry.   However, on Monday night I was especially wanting to get rid of those ugly plastic bags and I have a huge conscious about wasting perfectly good food.  I searched and found a recipe at Daily Waffle and I'm sharing the link.  But...you have to jazz this dish up or it tastes like...well, tasteless.  Here's my take in addition to the recipe:

Dot the first layer of noodles with butter and a lot of salt.  A tablespoon of herbs won't hurt.  You choose.  

Salt the next layer of shredded turkey (use half dark meat, it's the juiciest and even if you don't like the dark meat, you'll never notice).  Give that a few dots of butter.    

I layered a few handfuls of fresh baby spinach on the next layer, it adds color and makes you feel like this is a healthier dish. lol!! 

 You will make a white sauce to pour over.  Be liberal with the herbs of your choice.  And a traditional white sauce has nutmeg...this recipe forgot that.  Don't you.
After you top the whole thing with bread crumbs and Parmesan (and be liberal, don't measure), dot with butter again.  

Salt, salt, salt and more salt...or a substitute.  The worst thing about this dish is that it is dull.  I think my tips will take it to the next level.  My family loved it.  You may just find yourself going out for one of those rotisserie chickens.  Face it, you only make this meal when you have leftover cooked meat, and this rarely happens.  There might never be another occasion, and before I gave you these swift ideas, you never wanted one. 



 The Husband deposited the "Christmas Funds" for me to get started on shopping.  Remember the Christmas Club (was there another word for it?) your bank had 40 years ago?  You made a deposit of about $5.00 a month and lo and behold, in December you had your Christmas funds!  I loved that.  And how precious that you could do it within that amount!  My ever frugal guy sets a budget and I find it a challenge to stay within it (I have very little budgeting talents at all and I'm grateful, not resentful, that The Husband takes charge of this...lest I seem to sound pathetic)  And Ooh la la, if I stay under, guess who benefits?!! :)  Hope you are off to a good start with your gift shopping and if you are finished and sitting in front of a roaring fire with your favorite beverage in hand...don't tell me. ;-D

An update on the happily engaged couple, son Jeff and fiancee, Deirdre.  They have made plans to get married this August.  Tell me how I'll survive with a new granddaughter coming in February and a wedding for 400, yes 400 guests in 8 1/2 months?  But as my daughter, Abigail, pointed out, it's not about me.  I hate this younger generation,  they have quite a way with words.  So, full steam ahead with trying to lose the weight, dress fittings,  wedding showers and dinners, travel arrangements (yes, they chose a place 5 hours away in a harbor town along Lake Michigan).  I keep chanting. "Glass half full, glass half full."

I'm setting the alarm for early, getting some shopping and wrapping done, bringing up some decorations, and maybe at least getting the mantel pretty.  Glass half full...glass half full.  :)

Jane xx


Saturday, November 29, 2014

THANKSGIVING TABLE AND RECIPES











I absolutely adored this recipe.  Not too many people like Brussels sprouts but I do and it wasn't until recently that I learned of all the ways you can prepare them.  This recipe seems involved but don't let the steps fool you.  Bits of panchetta, Gruyere cheese, all melted in a smooth white sauce and poured over blanched Brussels sprouts.  Seconds anyone? Here's the link...keep this in mind for a Christmas side dish.  We loved it!






1)  Cook 7 pieces of bacon.  Drain and set aside.
2)  Drain off all but 1 T. of drippings and saute 2 T chopped garlic cloves for one minute.
 3)  Beat 2 8 oz. cream cheese (softened) until smooth.  4)  Beat in 1/3 c Half & Half.
Stir in bacon, 1 t garlic, 4 oz. blue cheese, and 2 T chopped chives.
5)  Spoon into a small baking dish and bake at 350 for 15 minutes (you can refrigerate and do this prior to serving).    Sprinkle the top with 2 T chopped walnuts before serving with crackers and/or fruit.


It never ceases to amaze me  when I win a giveaway.  In my six years of blogging, I've been so fortunate to win so many.  And I recently won this bounty after joining in at Top This Top That blog.  Sponsored by Mary Kay Cosmetics and BlogHer, I won a bunch of Mary Kay products, from make up brushes to lipsticks.  And the big one was a $100 Visa card.  I am beyond belief!!  How did I get so lucky?  I love the cosmetics of course, and it's going to take me awhile to figure out how to use the card.  Thank you so much, Laura!!

The last time I posted I mentioned a blogger whose photography I so much admire.  And I also admire so many of you ladies that love the photography/writing connection...I think you know who you are.   Sylvia not only takes the most stunning photos, her writing is outstanding and I totally get "lost" in her posts.  I am absolutely mesmerized by the way she weaves within her photos... her stories.  Please pay her a visit.  And have a look at her cards, all graced with her beautiful, rustic pictures.  I recently won a giveaway from her, five of her holiday cards  Do me a favor...visit Sylvia, it would mean the world to me.

And that's all I have.  Tomorrow I'm helping my daughter Emily get some of her Christmas decorations up, and on Monday she will help me.  I'm just doing a bit at a time...our "live" tree won't come until the second week of December...that's when I get in the festive mood!

I'll get back to you on the bathroom and office reveal...The Husband is slow going on getting the office in order and I haven't had time to take photos of the bath.  Much sleep needed here! :)

Jane xx

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A FEW CRAFTS FROM MS. ALL THUMBS (AKA. BLONDIE)

Hello!  Lots happening in Blondieville and for that I'm grateful.  I've been stuck close to home with temps in the single digits and The Husband using my car (for long time followers, you know the situation of The Husband buying a sports car 6 years ago which you can't drive in cold wet weather, and he did that obviously, so enamored with said car that he failed to remember we live in the Midwest).  More on that later.  So...I was able to finish up some of those crafts I've been hinting at in my last few posts.  The first is a Mason jar (in this case Kerr), filled with faux snow and a votive candle and then dressed up a bit for the holiday season.   I want to thank Jennifer at Town And Country Living for the inspiration. 



Some hints from me:  I find purchasing Mason jars in the summer and early fall to be the most economical way to do it.  Especially at grocery stores, Walmart and some drugstores like Walgreen's and CVS.  THE best prices around.  If you can't do that, they are sold at Michael's and Hobby Lobby for just a bit more and a few more choices in size.  Secondly, the votive candles were found at Michael's, 12 in a pack for around $8.  Once they burn down, pop them in the freezer for 5 minutes and the old wax will poke out with a knife and you can then re~use them with another votive or a tea light candle.  The artificial snow is from any craft shop as well.  In a nutshell, or Mason jar, fill 3/4 with the faux snow.  Tuck a votive candle jar in the center, pushing it down as far as possible.    Using a teaspoon (or even a small funnel or handmade paper cone), fill in around the candle with the snow.  Any excess that falls in the candle can be scooped out with a small spoon, yet I didn't find it to be flammable.  But don't take chances.  Since you don't want to mess up the "snow", use a long match stick or lighter.    And you can just keep re~using these as much as you want!! :)


Another Mason jar idea came from Yvonne at Stone Gable.  God knows I've gone through tons of Epsom salts in the bath with my bad back, but I never noticed the sparkle (maybe not through my pain!).  So in this case, take your Mason (Kerr, empty pasta jar...no matter), and spread Mod Podge over it with a small spongy applicator or paint brush.  MP is like a glue that dries clear.  Spread it on evenly, not too thick yet not too thin.  Pay careful attention to the very bottom of the jar which you might miss as it curves under.  Go just up to the the top and not over the ridges near the lid.  Fill a small bowl with the Epsom salts, hold that sticky jar  by the rim over it and just spoon the salts over... covering evenly.  Voila!  Snow covered jars. 











With the crafts, you must think my feet are firmly planted in December.  Before you put that Scarlet "C" on my sweater, know that I have The Turkey!  For some reason, if I know the bird is in the house (or the  ham for Easter), I rest easy.  A short story:

This morning my son in law Mike stopped by and we all had coffee.  He asked about the Thanksgiving plans.  I said...well, I have the turkey.  Abby  bolted upright and said, "Where is it at?"  As if I had it in the backyard...we all laughed.  But The Husband and I know where this is coming from.  His clients are very generous, especially at holidays.  One year, when the kids were very small, one his clients, an older Illinois farmer, gifted us with two pheasants that he had hunted down (no, not a fan of that but I was gracious).  Before a small pre~holiday gathering, I defrosted the tightly wrapped birds I had kept in our big freezer in the basement.  Although I had made various types of fowl and game (and no, totally am not a fan of any of it now), I wasn't prepared for the feathers as I unwrapped the newspaper and then plastic.  Yes, lots of feathers, adhered to the birds if you know what I mean.  My little ankle biters heard my screams and then ran out of the kitchen in horror after seeing them.   "What am I going to do?" I wailed to The Husband.  He countered with, "We have to figure it out, Ed has to know we appreciated his gift!"  So we did a little research on what was then a very ancient and limited Internet.  Our choices were to do the boiling water method to pluck the feathers...or the hot wax method.  Oh, dear God.  So aware of wasting food when there are so many hungry people in the world, well, it was a hard decision. We had no choice but to dispose of the pheasants, and have a lovely lasagna for our dinner party.  We wrote Ed a note that the pheasants were wonderful. Gorgeous feathers. Gulp.  And that was that.

I may pop in before Thanksgiving.  I'd like to show you how the bathroom and office turn out once I get them jazzed up.  I hope you like the crafts.  I'm all thumbs as you know, I just like to brag a little when I have the opportunity! :)  I also want to introduce you to a blogger friend of mine that has the most exceptionally written posts and photography, and is now offering cards of all sorts that I think you would love to have a peek at.  Can't wait to share that,

Jane xx




Monday, November 17, 2014

THANKSGIVING TABLESCAPE & MANTEL AND MEETING A BLOGGER/AUTHOR!


I did this tablescape last week before we took the Arctic plunge (you can see my door is open).  I'm just fiddling with ideas for Thanksgiving.  We will be having eight for dinner and then I'm not sure how many in the evening for wine and dessert.  So you see, a lot will be edited from this picture if we want our forks to go from plate to mouth!  




I am using my everyday dishes from Ballard Design, that are really showing the chips.  And old mismatched silver that has to get a good polishing before the big day.  The brushed antiqued chargers were a sale score from Sur la Table and may still be on their website.  I used a scarf for a table runner and a few candles here and there.  

Can you see the little green pumpkin on the right?  My sweet friend Jody from Rooted In Thyme makes the cutest pumpkins and I recently acquired a few.  In the pictures above see if you can spot the green velvet one and another in orange knit.  As a really nice gesture, she threw in a little sock snowman!  Please visit her blog and Etsy shop.  Her stuff is so cute and creative! :)




I still have the banner from Carol up.  I went looking for the "Thankful" banner I made last year and somewhere, somehow, the "l" fell off! lol! I have to locate the stencils and get to work!  Carol's banner is timeless. :)


I was able to drag The Husband out Saturday to a big craft event put on by Three French Hens.  It takes place about an hour southwest several times a year.  I went once many years ago.  It's much bigger now, set up in four different buildings and outdoors, much like a French market.  There were a lot of vendors with vintage items.  And there is nothing better than Christmas vintage!




I had the pleasure of finally meeting this girl who I have "known" about since I started blogging.  Jennifer Rizzo is one creative and successful blogger and she just had a book published.  She was there signing them and meeting and greeting people.  Is this not a dream come true for Jen?!   She has an Illinois blogger get~together every spring and for one reason or another, I've never made it.  This was so cool!




Several blogs I've come across  have been raving about this book and I heard it flew off the shelves at Amazon.  Better grab one while you can and you might want to get an extra as a gift for someone you love!  Thanks, Jennifer, I know we will meet up again!

Again, thank for all of your well wishes.  My cast comes off tomorrow and I'm feeling pretty good.  Still using up those veggies I chopped...tonight it's vegetarian chili!  I'm going to fiddle a bit more with the tablescape and I actually did start two different Christmas crafts and I'm tweaking and working on a third. I'll share next time.  I just polished off two big mugs of green tea while I wrote this and now I may just snuggle under a throw with the dogs before I start dinner.  Have a great week! :)

Jane xxx