31 August 2011


Love, love, love LE's new haircut.

LE walks around today singing her own composition--"When I get older, I won't go to pre-school." Funny. JA goes three mornings a week, and she is actually really looking forward to pre-school, in another year.

With JA out of the house on Monday, LE busied herself tending to her baby doll and her friend Adelaide's monkey. They were well-fed, exercised, and read to. She spent a good part of the morning quietly entertaining herself. She's such a little domestic goddess. A couple of days ago I found a play washing machine, iron, and spray bottle set on clearance at Tuesday Morning and immediately knew whose it would be under the Christmas tree.

Tuesday Morning. It can be an addiction. Many times there's nothing there to tempt. Other times you just hit a bonanza. That's where I found the darling pink wooden kitchens for LE and NJ. I think I paid about $20 each, as they were on clearance, take another 50% off.

I keep saying I haven't been spending any money, but realized this morning that I have been. Amazon on-line, BessieMary Fabrics, Tuesday Morning (small Christmas gifts, mainly), Home Depot, Lowe's... Well, at least the Home Depot and Lowe's purchases are part of the bigger plan--HUGE PROJECT.

My electrician/handyman was called out on an emergency job which he's contractually tied to. So, hopefully he'll come my way on Friday to tend to my ever-growing list.

30 August 2011


Our kids are settling into a fine life in Orlando. LG has started first grade and is making new friends. She had her first after-school play date already. Both of the older girls are taking dancing--ballet, tap, tumbling, and one other. KF loves her ballet class and teacher. She's been so brave and is making friends. MK and NJ get a chance to socialize with parents and younger siblings for the 30 minutes KF is in class on Tuesday mornings. 

Since arriving in Florida, their lives have been hectic, but also somewhat magical--they love their apartment complex with its convenient swimming pool and places to ride their bikes. There are kids to play with and a playground; and since it's a gated community there's some sense of security. Papa and I had promised LG a new two-wheeler for her birthday in May, so last week they each got to choose a bike at Walmart. KF's is purplish-pink and LG's is aqua-blue. With helmets to match!

The shops and restaurants are within walking distance, as is the post office and DMV. They have a choice of conveniently located churches, and LG's school is just a few minutes away. They seem to be getting used to the heat and humidity, and are looking forward to the mild winter.

They've already been to Disney World for a few hours--the cat's out of the bag on that one. Until that visit, the little girls knew nothing about the theme parks. They already love Disney, but Disney World... It was a bit overwhelming for mommy and the girls, but they live close enough and have free passes so there'll be plenty of opportunities to visit again.

So, what do little girls dream of? Dancing, new bikes, Disney princesses, and a whole lot more. Orlando must seem like Nirvana to these little ones. You can see how happy the entire family is in their new life:

God is great, and good. He blesses us with more than we could ask of think.

29 August 2011


Inside: It's your birthday. Let your happiness show.

Can't resist posting the card from my brother PJ. He has such a sense of humor, and every year his card is a riot. Don't know how he manages it. He has 5 sisters. FIVE! And 3 daughters. So, he grew up living with 6 women (+mom) and now lives with 4 (+SJ). Can you not imagine how much he's looking forward to son-in-law #1 joining the family on September 24th?


RvH is such a gifted friend, and a friend who gifts. And, I always treasure her cards because she chooses with care and then spends hours composing heartfelt odes to friendship. You always feel that she sees you as better than you actually are. She's a treasure. Here's this year's card (above) and note:

Happy Birthday, MJ -
Each year becomes more precious, doesn't it? I celebrate you and pray for you heaven's best - joy, peace and love.
How richly I have been blessed by our friendship and I am a better person for knowing you. You have shown me what caring and giving is all about.
Thank you for the  many gifts of warmth, wit and wisdom - companionship, laughter and play. We can be together doing something special or nothing specific and still not run out of good thoughts - or words.
You help me make the "joy" brighter and the "bumps" easier, so truly you are my fair-weather friend. So you see, there is  much to celebrate about you.
Be well-energized, joy-filled and trust in the good plans the Lord has for you. Now that all of your little ones are here again, may there be lots of hugs and kisses ahead - whether in person or on video. They certainly steal our hearts and take our breath away...
Love, RvH

28 August 2011

SUNDAY: Day of Rest

Loving the Menlo Park-John Ortberg series Who Was This Guy?. Forgiveness hit me hard and gave me much to think and pray about. Today we dialed back to the first message of the series, Inspiration. Worth listening to again.

I meet LL at HB for an hour walk before beginning my errands--Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, JoAnn Fabrics, in addition to a couple recreational stops--Michael's and Home Goods. I have to get the rest of the lighting before Tony, the electrician-handyman, comes on Wednesday. I finally find a sconce--on clearance--at Lowes. In addition to the sconce for above the first landing on the stairs, I get rope lighting for our screened porch. This is a new idea that I'm really excited about.

On Wednesday, Tony will install under-cabinet and over-cabinet lighting in the kitchen, an additional recessed light above the stove, French (Corsican) sconces on each side of the fireplace, add a dimmer switch in the master bathroom, switch-out the great room chandelier with the library ceiling fixture, hang window boxes on front of house, install pull-out shelves in the master bath vanity,. He'll repair porch screens, the guest room curtain rod, front door screen, and whatever I add to his lust before Wednesday.

After initially leaving home at 8:30am, I don't return until 3:30pm. On the way home I drop by BB's to give her a Be Still and Know CD I'd promised and end up visiting for well over an hour.We have a lot of catching-up to do. We'll start meeting once a week to walk this Wednesday.

I need a nap! I've been up since 4:00am. We eventually decide to have hors d'oeuvres for dinner, even though we've not eaten much today. We prepare and enjoy one of the bagel dogs we bought at a bagel shop yesterday (Hebrew National), cut into 6 pieces, fresh dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon, and a Freschetta thin crust Farmers Market Veggie pizza. Just the ticket. This is a fantastic product.

I finish out the day talking to my youngest sister PM to get the low-down on my niece's wedding shower held in Central, IL today. I really wanted to go but couldn't because of my travel fatigue. Even yesterday I called a friend who has family in the same area to see if she wanted to make a quick trip with me. We've done that twice before, but she had commitments here, plus none of her family were to be in town today.

A good and pleasant day.

27 August 2011


Fabric Finders

Saturday is a perfect combination of activity and recovery. We've planned to buy CA's car, but the dealership is swamped with buyers so CA takes me home after a run through Caputo's for goat cheese, NY strip steaks, DeCecco angel hair pasta, and some yummy cannoli. CA will go back mid-afternoon to complete the transaction.

I spend my afternoon reading, napping, and creatively thinking. I've been really tired since our travels ceased (paused)--it just hits me, or rather I suddenly hit a wall. SMACK!

The grey gingham fabric I ordered for skirting the small console table in the back hall arrived yesterday and it's lovely. Thank you BessieMary for the superb service and vintage quality. I've been refining my plans for the skirting--the results will be blogged soon. And, it turns out the 4 yards aqua (spa) linen I purchased, on sale and on a whim, will work perfectly for the detachable bed skirt in the master bedroom. No more guilt about my fabric stack. The vineyard print we purchased in Antibes will cover our third ottoman and the red linen will provide the cording.

CA grills the steaks for my birthday dinner. We'll grill enough to have streak tacos in a couple days.I sauté beautiful mushrooms and Vidalia onions and assemble a Chinese salad. Wonderful meal which we top with some cannoli--pistachio for CA and a mini one, dipped in wonderful chocolate for me.
1 bag Cabbage broccoli
 2 bags Ramen Noodles (discard seasonings)
 1/2 Cup Slivered almonds, toasted
 1/2 Cup Green onions, sliced thinly          
3/4 Cup Vegetable oil
 3/4 Cup Sugar
 1/4 Cup Apple cider vinegar
 2 T Mustard
 1 T Soy sauce
 1. Combine vegetable oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard, and soy sauce in blender and process until smooth.
 2. Toss with cabbage broccoli and green onions
 3. Just before serving, toss in Ramen noodles and toasted almonds.                        

The birthday celebration continues...

Later, I do research for RvH and find the Herand rooster retails for $4655! It's a limited edition, #6 out of @ 250, and 24 karat gold. She'll sell this cock ASAP. Now, if we can find a buyer for this and for the beautiful Bombe chest. RvH is beyond pleased when I call her.


Today RvH and I meet at 10:45am to celebrate my birthday. We've decided to see One Day together at the AMC in Barrington. 

We both love the film. Maybe not great cinema but we smile and we cry, and we decide that any film that makes us really feel our emotions--our vulnerability--is a good thing. I've no negative thoughts on this movie. Sometimes a girl just needs a good romance, especially one set in Edinburgh, London, and Paris.

I've chosen Buona Beef for my birthday lunch--hamburgers, fries to share, and free Arnold Palmer beverages because we're old. Senior citizens drink free at Buona. Our beautiful friend, Wendy, is at the register. She goes out of her way to make us welcome. Last time we were here she arranged our table and delivered our food--this is not a fancy sit-down restaurant. This is a place where you normally order your food, wait in line, fill your own beverage cup, and find a table.

Wendy is just so, so sweet. We used to come to Buona every week or two before we both retired and we miss seeing Wendy more often since.

Today, after we order, Wendy takes our receipts and delivers our burgers to our table. It comes out that we're celebrating my birthday, so before the meal is over Wendy appears with a wonderful Buona fudge brownie half topped with a scoop of wonderful vanilla ice cream, just a dab of whipped cream, and a cherry on top for the birthday girl. 

We make sure to stop and tell the manager how wonderful Wendy is and how we appreciate the birthday treats.

I want to go to Whole Foods since we're close to the Woodfield area, and RvH always likes a culinary adventure. We don't need much. Fresh figs for me--to fill with goat cheese and wrap with bacon. Strawberries and a breakfast muffin for RvH; while I buy a small loaf of cinnamon bread for CA and some croutons for Giada's rigatoni recipe. I'd planned to buy another 5" layer cake (just because...) but after the fudge brownie ala mode I'm just too full to contemplate.

We drive separately to RvH's. She has some stuff to sell, and I will take the photos and dimensions. DV may be able to find a buyer, or we'll consider selling through The Perfect Thing.

Marked on bottom: Made in Italy (in English)
48"W x 18-1/2"D x 33"H

Herand (Hungarian)
Markings include: Herand logo printed in blue on upper left with the number 6 underneath, also the number 284 etched top middle, and the word HERAND with the number 5030 etched on the right.

RvH always treats me royally on my birth day, and this year us no exception. She buys me two books, a cloisonne fob, a beautiful Paris-inspired glass dome, a book journal, a tiny Eiffel tower notebook for my purse, French-themed cocktail napkins, and a darling red box of French-inspired note paper. 

The best part is always the gift wrap. RvH is an artist at heart. Just lovely, and fun.

I feel honored and celebrated. Twice already this week. Three times including our celebration(s) in Omaha.

I'm exhausted as I drive to Cary to collect CA. We're down to one car until tomorrow when we buy the Subaru replacement was out very early this morning dropping him off, and doing some 7:00am grocery shopping.

As I drive to CG, DM calls from Cocoa Beach area where his family will spend this weekend. The little girls are very excited about the ocean. Wish we were there, too. LG has much to tell me about her double ice cream cone--strawberry and cookie dough, side-by-side. She's never had cookie dough and it is her instant favorite. And after I ask what the best thing about her school day, she tells me it's singing God Bless America every morning before the Pledge of Allegiance. This little Slovak-American girl is quickly becoming very American. She's fabulously bi-lingual, and transitions easily to having English as her first language. Still, I believe she's always going to be a proud Slovak.

KF has begun talking more to me on the phone, sounding more well-spoken every time. DM says that they took her to a playground this week and when she saw it she said, "How awesome!" Her language skills have leaped forward, as well as her pronunciation. I'll miss her sweet gwanma, yiyi, etc. 

As far as Noël, she's not yet a phone girl, so she's busy making a bunch of noise in the background. She's kind of the family clown--climbing out of her bed to run into her sisters' room to entertain. Such a doll.

When we arrive home were not ready for dinner, so we fall into our separate routines--I fall asleep knowing full well that taking an evening nap is never a good idea. Eventually I conduct a series of friend/family phone calls and get caught up in the Internet and blog photo posting, while CA (who is working full-time now) goes to bed at a reasonable time.

A very good day.


Found this is the blogosphere last year, and it's been my inspiration since. Added first bracelet for my birthday last year--from Trade Winds Cove http://local.yahoo.com/info-17154607-trade-winds-cove-giftsimports-crystal-lake. Then, the second came from the BHV in Paris last December. The third was also purchased from TWC--I meant to get a new bangle on vacation in Virginia Beach mid-May and then decided to pre-purchase before the trip (in honor of the trip) because TWC has great pricing and I didn't want to spend all my vacation searching for a silver bangle. That's because we were with LE, JA, and parents and it just wasn't a shopping vacation.

Love this idea! Plan to get a new one at TWC next week for this year's birthday gift.

25 August 2011


Today is LE's first visit to a hair stylist. She is a very brave girl, and the results are smashing! You're gorgeous, baby.

JA was suitably impressed... He exclaimed with wonder, and then told her how good she looks. That's so sweet, because earlier in the day she was encouraging him as to how "cool" his new grey cammo slip ons look on him.

24 August 2011


We are still a one car family. Delayed our car shopping until Saturday and I happily canceled plans for today. I'm home for the day. Ah-h-h... Inhale. Exhale.

Since we have time, we give the garage a much needed thorough cleaning. It'll be nice for the new car, and when the furniture returns from the upholsterer we'll store it in the garage until the hardwood floors are refinished.

I do make a quick trip to Farm and Fleet to purchase a second shelving unit to further organize our "stuff." Do you know about Farm and Fleet? When our kids were small that store was rumored to have the very best toy prices. Of course, that was pre-Target, WalMart, and just about every discount store. We had K-Mart and Zayre.

Farm & Fleet originally served, well... farms and fleets. It's still fun to putter about to see what's unique or cheap. JE's dining room table came from Farm & Fleet. It was on clearance so CA and I hauled it to Omaha when she was a single girl with her first apartment with no roommates.

The garage looks and smells good. How sad is my life that I have to go to the laundry room door--not once, but twice--just to admire our work and take a whiff? Looking good.

After CA takes off I get a burst of energy fueled by curiosity and set about rearranging the great room furniture into the pattern DV has suggested. It works! I like it. My creative juices have been flowing. More about that later.

I'm way kicked back now. Reading my good book and sipping some iced tea. I could do this for a few days...

23 August 2011

62 CANDLES: It's the new 50!

Croissants and espresso (by Nespresso) for my birthday breakfast. Since we've not replaced the Subaru yet, CA drops me early at HB and keeps the car. LL and I are going to speed walk and then I'll hang out with her until she takes me out for a birthday lunch. She's been redecorating, so it's always fun to see what's changed at her house. She gives me some of Rush Limbaugh's Two If By Tea--diet raspberry something--and it's really good. You have to order it on the Internet.

After we've been sitting on the porch watching and listening to the rain for awhile, we change clothes and visit a floral shop in Crystal Lake--Twisted Stem. Lovely. LL buys each of us a small flower arrangement and then we drive to Woodstock for a bento box lunch at The Golden Roll. This is LL's first time at TGR, and she loves it. We take our time--still haven't run out of conversation. I'm home before 2:00pm, and tired! I'm putting on my pj's! CA found out last minute that he has a soccer parents meeting tonight, so we'll celebrate my birthday on the weekend. Maybe pair a trip to Wheaton and The Perfect Thing with lunch or early dinner at Front Street Cocina. No, I never get tired of Mexican food.

I get lots of birthday cards and some really nice phone calls. My school friend, KC, from Arizona--whom I've not talked with in 1-1/2 years--calls and we have a lovely conversation catching up on life events. RvH and I make plans for a movie, One Day, and a hamburger at Buona Beef, on Friday.

Life is good!

Reading a great book--The Architect by Keith Ablow.

22 August 2011


Going home tonight, so I'm up earlier than some days to maximize my time. JE takes JA and LE with her to Target while LC naps. I'm in charge when he wakes up, but he snoozes through the morning while I read and make a few phone calls.

Still looking at the two bunches of fresh basil, gathered into two vases of water like lovely aromatic flowers, from Saturday's market--today is pesto making day. I always use The Silver Palate recipe and so does JE. We wing it a bit today--utilizing what we have. So, we cut down a bit on the olive oil, cheese, and because pine nuts cost so much we settle for 1/2 cup per recipe instead of a full cup.

The way I figure it, pesto was created as a way to preserve fresh basil because drying it destroys the flavor and freezing it is almost as bad. Pesto freezes well, and is unbeatable with any shape of pasta. Toss a couple of tablespoons with hot pasta, stir in a few julienned sun-dried tomatoes, and top with some toasted pine nuts. Heaven!

The pesto is just too beautiful! Sometimes I really understand how satisfying preserving food is. Our moms and grandmas "canned" throughout harvest season--tomatoes, tomato juice, green beans, apple sauce, etc. And, CA's parents were master "freezers." The corn tasted fresh all winter long; the lima beans,too. Never loved their take on broccoli, but it was always great to have a freezer full of vegetables.

Have to get my baby holding in today. LC is starting to smile more and more. So, so sweet. I'm gonna miss this squishy little guy.

Wucy's twicks

JA and LE decide they want to play soccer with the "blue" soccer ball. In JA's world everything is always better if it's blue. We kick the ball around for awhile before LE wanders off to climb, so JA and I switch to t-ball. His form needs some work, but can he whack that ball! He actually hits one over the fence. Later JA tells his mommy that he's pretending that he is the only one who lives with her in Omaha--daddy, LE, and LC live in Chicago. He swings on the rope, and when he's one direction he's in Chicago and in the other direction he's in Omaha. Back and forth.

I decide to defrost the Al Capone beef roast I brought from Caputo's earlier this summer, and not wanting to waste H+DS's last tomato, I toss together a salad of Romaine, tomato, carrot, bell pepper, bacon, and red onion. Every time I use raw onion now I slice it and soak it for a bit in iced water first. It mellows the flavor and ups the crunch factor.

My flight is on time, I have an aisle seat, and no one else in the window seat. I have a bit of time to read and before long we're landing at O'Hare. CA has timed it right, so we're soon on our way and happy to be together. We do stop at Whole Foods for a 5" coconut layer birthday cake, and then on to Portillo's for the best jumbo beef frank--Vienna beef. Best Kosher used to be the best, but they disappeared--Costco used to serve Best Kosher so they had the best hot dog. RvH and I would have the $1.50 hot dog lunch at Costco at least once a month. After Best Kosher disappeared, Costco served Hebrew National for awhile and then switched to their own brand. Now their dogs are too mushy. At the grocery store, we only buy Hebrew National. For whatever reason I've never found the grocery store version of Vienna Beef comes close to the ballpark Vienna's, or for sure not Portillo's.

I'm a hot dog connoisseur.

Home looks and feels great. As does my wonderfully comfortable new bed. I'll be up early tomorrow. It'll be my birthday. 62 candles. Time is running out;can't waste a minute.

Told JA how many years I am, and he asked, "Are you going to die soon, grandma?"

Missing you already Wucy, Jonah, and Levi...

21 August 2011


Plans changed because I woke up exhausted after a less than stellar sleep. The Smiths are at church and I'm not. Every one is duded up and looking their best. LE's quite proud that she's wearing the effervescent Sophie's hand-me-downs. These crop pants have heart-shaped pockets in back. So cute. I get the kiddos to pose for photos, and when I ask LE to turn around to capture the pockets, of course JA turns around, too. Then they decide it'll be fun to fall back onto the couch every time the flash goes off. There're a riot.

pico de gallo

Two Hot Tamales guacamole

glutenfreegoddess's cilantro-lime hummus


While everyone is at church, I've chopped veggies and a Panzanella salad (tomatoes, croutons, garlic, olive oil (the stuff we brought from France), a dash of balsamic) and also some chunky guacamole (the best recipe in the world from the Two Hot Tamales). JE's been thinking about hummus, so when they get home I'll follow her recipe. (we decide to use the Gluten-free goddess's cilantro lime hummus recipe, and it's a hit.

It's amazing how far we've stretched a bunch of cilantro, two jalapeños, two limes, two avocados, the homegrown tomatoes, and a homegrown red onion. I've made pico de gallo twice, the enchilada toppings, guacamole, the bread salad (with basil from the farmers market), and plan on scrambled egg tacos for later today.

Am I tiring of Southwest cooking and eating? Never! I just might be able to eat New Mexican cuisine 24/7/365.

I get a couple of smiles from LC this morning. He's on the brink of a smile explosion--but I have to go tomorrow so I'm going to miss out on the excitement first-hand. JA and LE don't know what's ahead. They'll be dazzled. All they know so far is a warm, fuzzy, soft, squirming, and grunting little guy; they adore him already. Wait until he smiles and giggles with them. Spectacular.

Exchanged emails with my long-time friend BB this morning on matters of faith and trust, and appropriate worship and spiritual walk. Made me dig deep and reminds me again how God's timing on the struggles and fears we face is always perfect. I've had a lot of experiences lately that have drawn me into just these thoughts and conversations with God.

I look forward to continuing these conversations with BB, and we will. We've been friends since 1981. 30 years?! My how time flies. We met as neighbors when Thumper (their dog) was their only child, and JE was my baby.

I decided this afternoon that the caterer is off duty, so all the adults are left to their own devices (and leftovers) as far as dinner tonight. Theres's always peanut butter!

This evening JE and MA have a meeting, so I get to supervise the munchkins. I get all involved in making a rustic peach tart (once you purchase the farmers' market produce, you have to stay right on it!) with the 5 almost perfect Missouri peaches, with some help from JA and LE. I do JL's trick--using a glass baking pan so that I can microwave the pie for 8 - 12 minutes before sliding it into the oven. This step ensures that the bottom crust is completely baked and never soggy.

After some iPad time with the talking animals and many belly laughs, the kiddos are more than ready for bed by 7:30, and it takes just two story books before prayers and then, suddenly, not even a creature is stirring...

I get a bit of reading time and some warm, fresh peach pie. Ah-h-h.

Tomorrow will go fast. My flight home is just after 6:00pm and there's still some fresh basil pesto to make, some baby cuddling, and at least one more park on our agenda.