Thursday, July 20, 2017

Reliving my childhood summers

Oh, the lazy summer days of childhood, I have so many good memories of my childhood, and I’m recapturing some of those days here in middle Tennessee.

It wasn’t an easy childhood, but it was a happy one and the pleasures were simple.  My memories are so vivid lately,  it’s amazing at how many things I remember.  

We lived in a little house by my beloved ditch on a dirt road, we didn’t have air conditioning or an inside bathroom or even running water, but what we did have were shade trees and we lived in a valley so there was always a breeze,  We had a great little front porch where I spent many hours playing with my dolls, sitting in the porch swing reading an endless supply of books while drinking iced tea.  My memories are so strong I can still hear the swing creaking and the sound of the screen door slamming shut when I went in and out the front door. 

Our house faced south, but it was so shady the sun didn’t hit the porch, so it was always cool, even on the hottest of days.  It could get dusty when the cars drove by and it was such a small community, I knew every car that passed.  Sometimes I would run in the house until the dust settled, it would be thick and if the wind was blowing toward the house the grit would get in your eyes and they would feel like sandpaper.  And when it rained, oh it was wonderful, the smell of the dust mingling with the rain, we lived for summer rains and the cooler temperatures that followed.

I loved the fence row across the road, the dappled sunlight and the way the big trees swayed in the wind, and I would sit and watch the trees, listening for the train to curve down Appel's hill.  My playmates were dogs and cats, and the birds, the crickets and the frogs were all familiar sounds.

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Fast forward to this summer.  Our house faces north, but we have a great little porch, and the ferns have gotten so big that they totally shade everything.  When I look across the street there is a fence row of trees, and I watch them blowing in the wind.  We always have a breeze, and so I sit on the porch, with Maggie beside me, reading an endless supply of books, drinking glasses of iced tea, listening to the old familiar country sounds of birds, crickets and frogs and occasionally glancing at the cars that pass by.  Even though the days are hot, I welcome the warmth, and the cooling breeze coupled with the nature sounds just transport me back to that simple life in our little house by the ditch.

It’s like a gift, being able to have this glimpse of my childhood after all these years and I treasure every moment.  And as I remember those years, I’m very grateful for what I have now, running water, bathrooms, appliances and air conditioning.

So many similarities, that I wouldn’t have thought possible even last year.  It’s never to late to discover new things, there are adventures awaiting us around every corner.

And who says you can’t go home again, in a way I have...

Monday, July 17, 2017

Phillips Air Fryer XL Review

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Those of you who follow me know that I love kitchen gadgets.  I love to research and buy the highest rated versions because quality gadgets last a lifetime.  But when everybody started jumping on the Air Fryer bandwagon, I wasn’t that impressed.  And then I started reading more about them, the seed was planted and I was off to the races.

I did my research, and while there are cheaper versions of air fryers there were many complaints, one of the primary ones being that the finish came off of several models, but Phillips invented the air fryer and they have remained the industry standard.  So I bought one from Williams Sonoma, because they have a great return policy and always take care of their customers if they have any issues.  I bought the XL, you don’t want a smaller one, even for one person I would want the XL, the smaller ones just don’t hold enough food.  The price was spendy - $300, but I had a 25% off coupon and free shipping so that helped, and I knew since I bought it from WS that I could return it if I didn’t like it.  

It just didn’t seem possible that food could get that crispy when you fried it with no or little oil.  But boy was I in for a surprise, this thing is a rock star.  The first thing we made were french fries, then fried veggies, hubby wanted fried pies, so we made those, and everything turned out great.  He loves hash browns fried in it, I do drizzle the with a little oil, and while they aren’t grease laden like regular hash browns, they are still delicious, very crisp and so easy to cook.

The unit heats in two minutes, I line the basket with perforated parchment paper to make cleanup a breeze, you don’t heat your kitchen, it’s so fast, so easy, I would rank this as one of my very favorite kitchen gadgets.

My kids are critics, my son Ryan was here with his family last weekend, and he was very skeptical.  After using it just a few times he said, “Mom, you know I’m going to have to buy one of these.”  And that’s high praise from a foodie.  We fried pork chops in it today, it took 18 minutes and they were so good, juicy and flavorful, no oil and no mess!  Hubby thinks it’s great and he can be a hard sell too, but the man does love fried food and this makes it a lot more guilt free than frying it in oil on the stove.  And did I mention that there is no mess, your kitchen stays clean and you don’t have to heat up your oven.  Of course I mentioned it, but it’s worth repeating. ;)  That’s one of the best parts, not having to deal with a greasy stove.  We haven’t fried food often for years because it’s just not healthy, but this thing is a game changer!

There are several groups on FaceBook that give you great recipes, lots of cookbooks, too, even Paula Dean is on the bandwagon with her own brand of fryer and a cookbook.

So, if anybody has mad money and thinks they might like one of these, I’ll give you the link and also the code I used for the 25% off.  I don’t know if it still works, but they gave it to me this month, so there is a good chance it will.

Here’s the link

And the code:

USE CODE RHJP-KKX9-MH3P

 

Oh, this one is a winner winner chicken dinner for sure!

 

~ Jan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Organizing my world...

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I really do think organization is addictive.  I started slowly, and gradually have gotten to the point that when things are in disarray I just hate it.   But if you’re reading this and it’s not for you, that’s okay, too.  I was a formerly messy underneath, but organized on the surface kinda girl, everything looked fine until you opened my drawers, and then it was chaos, everything was just shoved in drawers and I couldn’t find anything, but I didn’t know better, so I didn’t have a problem with it.  But once I realized a few years ago that the key to organization is containment, I started by buying trays and dividers for drawers, and I quickly realized that my life was a lot easier when I could quickly find what I wanted without having to dig through piles of debris to find it.

This has been going on for some time now and a few years ago I organized my pantry and blogged about it, then hubby made me spice racks for my pantry doors for my anniversary, yeah, I was thrilled, and I know that’s nerdy, but that was a total game changer as well, so when we moved last winter, I duplicated my pantry space so that it’s similar to the way it was when we lived in Heavensville.  And yes, I alphabetize my spices. ;-).  

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LC built-in my makeup table in my closet for me this spring, and I had everything in open acrylic containers, but it wasn’t enough.   After a trip to the Container Store, where they have everything known to (wo)man and prices that are hideous, I went to HomeGood and bought acrylic storage drawer units for a fraction of the price of the Container Store and it works really well.  I still have some of the open acrilic containers, I’m a makeup junkie who has a lot to store, but I’m really pleased at how efficient it is.

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But the biggest game changer for me happened two years ago in August.  I would often take my clothes off in the evening and just leave them in a pile by the side of my bed, and a couple of days would go by and the pile would grow and it was just stupid.  I would make the bed and not pick up my clothes.  Why???  Who knows, but for some reason I said to myself, “Jan, you are never going to leave you clothes by the side of the bed again”  and it stuck!   It’s the only resolution I’ve ever made and actually kept, but since that day the clothes either go on a hangar or in the hamper at the end of the day and I’ve never gotten into that mess again.

Now if I could just make the same resolution about my eating habits...

So that’s whats going on in my world, sometimes when I put actions to paper, it reaffirms the progress I’ve made in my life.  But in all fairness, I do live with a neat freak, who never gets things in a mess and that helps a lot.  And if you’re still with me, my friend Holly says this video has changed her life.  It’s long, 40 minutes, the lady is Japanese and uses a translator so it’s a bit hard to follow, but she has a huge following and her techniques really are life changing.  So maybe I need to implement some of this as well.  One of the things she tells you to do is to put all of your clothes in a pile in the floor and as you pick up each piece, put it to your chest and if you feel the love, keep it, if you don’t, get rid of it.  

 Now go organize something, anything, just one drawer, just take five minutes and see if you don’t feel a sense of accomplishment.  Double dawg dare ya to do it...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House Review

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If you’re within a few hours of Lynchburg, TN and haven’t been, GO!  We visited there earlier this month with John, Deanna and Lexi for a long weekend and enjoyed it so much.  This is definitely in the hills and hollers of Tennessee, everything is rural and authentic, well, except for the town of Lynchburg, which of course is a tourist trap, but the surrounding countryside is amazing and we found great antique stores like we haven’t seen in years. I I had wanted to go to Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House in Lynchburg for lunch for years.  It’s reservations only, so make plans ahead of time, but it’s absolutely wonderful, the food was amazing, a little pricey for lunch at $22, but it was a total treat and well worth it!
 
After we checked in, we waited in the parlor for our dinner bell to ring.  Deanna captured this picture of John and Lexi, very Norman Rockwell, I just had to Photoshop it ;)
 
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But back to my story, the dinner bell rings, a “hostess” which is a little old grey haired lady, all of their hostesses are little grey haired old ladies, took us to our “room.”  The restaurant seating is in the different rooms of the boarding house, and you sit a table with people you don’t know, your hostess sits at the end of the table, eats with us and tells stories about Miss Mary Bobo and Jack Daniels.  Except our hostess had broken her arm and she was much more interested in telling us about her accident than the history of the boarding house.  We did manage to coax a few stories out of her, everybody introduced themselves, told where they were from and it was an interesting mix of people we shared a meal with.  
 
We were the last ones to be seated, and when we came in with a three year old there was dead silence.  I’m sure people were wondering what to expect.  But Miss Lexi is a pro, she’s eaten out everywhere and has great table manners, she charmed the entire table.  She broke the ice right from the start when Deanna quietly asked the server for milk for Lexi and they informed her that they didn't have milk.  Lexi announced emphatically “What??? NO MILK???”  Everybody started laughing, and the conversation flowed non-stop from them on.
 
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But the best part, the food!  Oh my goodness it was splendid, truly splendid.  I’m linking to several recipes, so if you see a food item in bold lettering, click on it for the recipe.  The food was amazing, pan fried chicken, obviously they had cut it themselves, because it had the tenderloin on the bone, and you never get that anymore.  That’s how mother always cut her chicken and the wishbone was my favorite part.
 
Here was our menu, and it changes daily, but they always have fried chicken, fried okra and candied apples.
 
 
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Miss Mary’s Boarding House Meatloaf  (it was wonderful, full of onions and green peppers and lots of ketchup.  I’m a meatloaf lover and this was  definitely 4 stars.
 
 

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Mac & Cheese, very, very creamy, I suspect there was Velveet involved with this even though the recipe says American cheese
 
Fried Okra
 
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When the dinner bell rings at Miss Mary Bobo’s, a surefire hit is the ever-present bowl of fried okra. The restaurant—based in an elegant, Federal-style home just down the road from the Jack Daniel Distillery—changes its family-style menu daily, but proprietress Lynne Tolley insists on serving this favorite Southern staple every day. Miss Mary Bobo’s fries okra better than anyone, with a crunchy cornmeal crust that locks in that moist, unique taste. “Our secret,” says Lynne, “is to not crowd the skillet. You want to let each bite get crispy; otherwise, you’ll end up with one big, soggy ‘okra fritter.’ 
 
 
Creamed Corn
 
Green Beans
 
Homemade rolls, split with butter in the middle
 
 
Tennessee Sweet Tea
 

I’m not a whiskey drinker, I don’t like the taste, but their pie was delicious, subtle, not overkill.  The whipped cream was spiked with whiskey and the entire pie was dusted with cocoa, it was so good for the grand finale.

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 Her cookbook is available on Amazon, the menu changes daily, so there are lots of options that are featured in this book.
 

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We stayed at Cedar Cabin, the entire cabin was made of cedar and when you walked in the door it smelled wonderful.  Even though it was summer we made S’mores in the evening at the outdoor fireplace.  The fire kept the mosquitoes away, it worked great and across the road was a field of cows, who the owner swears don’t like country music, they like to jam to Bon Jovi.  
 
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 We went antiquing several times and at the owners suggestion went to Sewanee. We were totally unfamiliar with Sewanee, but it’s the home of The University of the South, a private liberal arts college founded in 1857 and the entire campus was built of native rock.  It was so beautiful it’s undescribable, but here’s a YouTube video to give you a visual.  It just blew us away, the grounds were lush, shaded and gorgeous.  It sits high on a mountain ridge overlooking the valley, it’s definitely a place we want to return to, especially in the fall.
 

 And that’s a few highlights of our trip, if you live within driving distance it’s a wonderful getaway.  The guys toured Jack Daniels Distillery, we checked out the shops in Lynchburg, it was definitely a low-key relaxing get away that I would highly recommend...

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Diane Keaton, doing it HER way...

 

 

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I’ve always been a fan of this woman, especially the movie Something’s Gotta Give.  Okay, I admit it, me, along with the rest of American women, loved, loved, LOVED the house.  But she’s a cutey, she’s funky, she still wears the same style hat and high waisted belt that she’s worn for years. 

Does the outfit work?  Not really, but on her it does.  Just had to share this picture this morning, she’s in her 70’s and she’s still workin’ it.

GO GIRL, GO!!!

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Okay, one more pix.  Here she is, not all glammed up, shopping in Rite Aid this week.  Don’t you love it, no assistant, she’s richer than Croesus, and she’s in Rite Aid buying Cover Girl and L’Oreal mascara and pencils.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Citi Cash Rewind

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 We just got back $499 from Citi Cash Rewind!!!!

We’ve had a 2% cash back Citi Double Cash Back Card for a couple of years now.  We like it because there is no cap, you get 1% on anything you purchase and another 1% when you pay the bill.  We put everything on it, monthly expenses, utility bills, insurance, we use it instead of a debit card and pay it off at the end of the month and the cash back adds up really fast.

But the best part is the Price Rewind, if you buy something using your card and find it cheaper within 90 days, you mail them proof of purchase and they give you the cash back.

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Hubby found these red garage cabinets, they were exactly what they wanted but they were sold out online EVERYWHERE.  You could get them in grey, but not in red.  I called the factory, talked with their sales rep, he checked his computer and told me the only place that had stock in the USA was Menards, and since LC is not known for his patience, he didn’t wait to see if anybody had a better price when the red was restocked, he went ahead and bought them.  $1499, free shipping, no tax.  BUT,  he had seen them online at Costco earlier for $999, same exact cabinets, but of course you couldn’t get them, they were sold out.  So I kept watching Costco and sure enough, they popped up for sale again for $999 a few weeks ago.  So I sent all the necessary documentation to Citi Cash Rewind Department via the post office, registered mail, called them a couple of times to make sure the order was being processed and a couple of days ago, our account was credited for $499.

That’s a chunka change, and you can do this with anything you buy using their credit card.

Just a heads up, who doesn’t love a good deal and this is definitely one . good . deal !

Here is a link if you’re interested in their card

And here is the Costco link for the cabinets

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend, and remember it’s not about the picnic...

~ Jan

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What I'm reading this spring

 

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Zoe Saldivar is more than just single—she's ALONE. She recently broke up with her longtime boyfriend, she works from home and her best friend Jen is so obsessed with her baby that she has practically abandoned their friendship. The day Zoe accidentally traps herself in her attic with her hungry-looking cat, she realizes that it's up to her to stop living in isolation. 

Her seemingly empty life takes a sudden turn for the complicated—her first new friend is Jen's widowed mom, Pam. The only guy to give her butterflies in a very long time is Jen's brother. And meanwhile, Pam is being very deliberately seduced by Zoe's own smooth-as-tequila father. Pam's flustered, Jen's annoyed and Zoe is beginning to think "alone" doesn't sound so bad, after all.

I’ve been an avid reader my entire life.  And yes, I’m shallow, I like easy, breezy romance novels, written only by women.  Susan Mallory is one of my very favorite authors, and this book is a good one.  Take some time for yourself, put your feet up, relax and read.  It’s one of life’s most simple pleasures, and for me, one of the best.

~ Jan

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The hills of Tennessee are showing their green...

 

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I know I constantly gush about how pretty it is in Tennessee, but just look at this picture.  I snapped it from the car window this week, and I’m just in awe of how how beautiful it is and pinch myself because I’m so lucky to live in such a lovely part of these great United States.

Middle Tennessee sits in a valley, so everything is surrounded by hills.  This spring has been so rainy, everything is lush and the views are  just magnificent.

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Finally

The weather has been warm, we’ve been doing a lot of landscaping, and I’ve been doing a lot of sitting on the front porch.  It’s just a tiny little porch, but we enjoy it more than any outdoor area we’ve ever had.  For hubby it’s because there is activity.  We often say we live on Sesame Street because there are so many young families with children.  Fortunately for us, Don and Jacquie moved in last month across the street and they are also children of the 60’s.  We were doing the happy dance the day we saw their car pull in with age appropriate people inside :) 

But back to hubby and sitting on the porch.  People walk by with their kids and dogs and stop to say hi, he watches traffic, he isn’t bored.  We had such a pretty patio in Heavensville and he never sat outside.  He’s not a nature lover, there was nothing to watch except the birds and when we moved here, I was totally shocked to see him actually sit on the porch and relax.  I bought an outdoor lamp, it seems to be a southern thing, people  in Nashville often have lamps on their porches, and of course I jumped right on that bandwagon.  He mounted it to my table so the wind doesn’t blow it away and I sit early mornings in a chair with my coffee on the table, checking mail on my laptop and it’s a beautiful thing.  Our outdoor areas in Heavensville were beautiful, but the condo faced west and there was nothing to shield it from the sun so I rarely sat outside.  I sat on the back patio a lot, but usually by myself since hubby wasn’t a fan, so this works far better than I ever imagined.  Our house now faces north, so there is always shade.   I hung ferns, plopped a topiary in a pot by the front door, planted our iron tiered basket that we’ve had forever with impatiens and now I’m on the hunt for the perfect wreath for the front door.  LC put in the micro irrigation, so no watering for me this summer.

I have two mandevillas planted on trellises on either side of the porch and they are flourishing, the entire front of the house is landscaped with trees and bushes.  V and Rich visited last month and she helped me plan things.  The azaleas are flowering, there are big buds on the mountain laurels, the beds of Stella D’oro day lilies are blooming and the birds are singing.  The crape myrtle has leafed out and I just love watching everything grow.  LC knows I’m a sucker for a birch tree, he got a lovely one and planted it, we bought a dozen boxwoods to line the driveway and now we’re waiting on the sprinkler company to come and work on the system.  Then we mulch and we’re pretty much finished.  Well, gardens are never finished, but for this spring we’ve done enough.

Our back porch is covered as well, it only gets early morning sun, so it’s accessible as well.  Summers are hot in middle Tennessee, but hopefully we can sit outside some evenings and enjoy dinner. But what’s been a defining moment for me is the realization that it doesn’t take a lot of space to make an area your own.  We brought all of our favorite outdoor pots and statuaries and were able to use most of them.  My big concrete roosters are sitting under the birch tree, my stone rabbits are tucked under bushes and my favorite big clay frog is sitting on the back porch.  I planted hydrangeas in pots and sat them in the landscaping since there was limited space on the back porch for pots, I hung colorful baskets and planted herbs.  It’s small, contained and just the right size for me to putter around in without being overwhelmed.  

And that’s what I’ve been up to.  It’s starting to feel like home, it takes awhile to adjust to new surroundings, but I’m getting there and loving it...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Old Barns in Tennessee

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Anything that reminds me of my childhood is so special at this time in my life.  I grew up in a family of farmers and played countless hours in old barns very similar to this.  I’m so nostalgic about the look, the smells, the creaking boards, and now that we live in Tennessee I’m lucky enough to see old barns everywhere in the countryside.

Unlike Illinois and Indiana, who have long since destroyed so many old barns and put up aluminum pole buildings, Tennessee seems to preserve theirs, they are everywhere.  We drive through the country and around every corner is another old barn and often silos sitting behind them.  I think a road trip just to take pictures of them would be so much fun.  It’s something that this generation knows nothing about, old barns, and oh are they missing out.  There is no greater joy for a child than to play in a barn, climb in the hayloft and make forts in the hay, feed the animals, smell the corn in the crib, and seeing so many of these wonderful barns brings back so many good memories. 

If you get a chance to just wander through the backroads of Tennessee, you will be richly rewarded of a life we don’t often see anymore.  Small towns, meat and three diners, cattle grazing, country people, it’s well worth the trip...

Friday, April 7, 2017

Thank You Pioneer Woman!

 

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I’m a big fan of the tablescape, but since we’ve moved and have more company I’ve decided to only set the table with things I actually use.  Well, kinda.  And it’s spring and Pioneer Woman has her new spring collection at Walmart, so I was all over it like mayo on white bread.

The fun thing about her products is that they’re so affordable.  This cute little butter dish was $5.46, the round rug placemats were $3.00 each, the underneath yellow bandana placemats $1.50 each, napkins were $6 for a set of 4, the set of 4 plates were under $20 and they have flowers and yellow polka dots on them, I’m a huge fan of yellow polka dots!  The 4 glasses were $15.86, this great old fashioned pitcher was $12.72, the fluted pie plate was $12.  I got the cow last year for $5 and change.   I also have a napkin holder and coasters, you’re getting the picture, you can have a whole lot of fun for not a whole lot of money.  And you’re thinking, but.. it adds up.  Yeah, it does but you could easily spend this much money on an Easter outfit or a spring purse.  

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Now I’m eyeing up this cookie jar, okay I admit, it’s in my shopping cart, okay, okay, so I bought it just now.  It was $15 - I’m the queen of justification, just ask my friends, I can justify anything and I really wanted this cookie jar to complete my collection.  I love the old fashioned look of it, the glasses are sturdy and the pitcher is the perfect size.  Do I need this stuff?  Of course not, but I had a heck of a good time buying all of this and it makes me happy.  I walk into the kitchen and I smile.

And did I mention her knife set?  We’re in overload here, I’m saving that little gem for another post.

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