Monday, December 7, 2015

Oh, Christmas Tree - 2015 Version

The Christmas tree - centerpiece of almost everyone's holiday decorating.  And it's no different at our house.  I start thinking about the year's "theme" just about the time I finish putting out our Fall decor in September!

I wanted to do something a little different this year.  So, I started pulling together the elements from scratch, using the vision in my head as my shopping guide.....

I started with ribbons, three different styles and colors, and made bows which I scattered around the tree first.
Wide green fabric ribbon with fun glittery polka dots

Elegant wide white ribbon with silver edging and glittery blue snowflakes
This plaid ribbon brought all the color elements together

Next came a variety of different ornaments, most of them shiny or glittery, to better reflect the light....
Blue pine cone orbs, with a frosting of snow
Swirly green orbs with a matte finish
Glittery blue ornaments for lots of sparkle
Oversized beaded ornaments in various shades of green
Gold and silver ornaments for a different shape and simple crystal drops for their prism reflections
 
Large frosted snowflakes for their magic




 A lighted star for the topper this year, surrounded by gold beaded stems.  Before I added them, the tree had a sort of flat appearance on top....just looked funny to me.  But, this turned out to be a good addition - they reflect the light beautifully and round out the top nicely!
And notice the gold icicles dangling from the branches - I end up using these every year, no matter what the theme!

I love the way these beaded stems glisten - it's almost like a crown for the tree!
The view from a vertically challenged person's my point of view...
I love the way this year's tree turned out!  Eddie Dale says he thinks it's one of the prettiest yet!  And we have it in a new spot this year, so we can enjoy it while we are sitting and watching tv - it's front and center - and I don't know why we've never put it here before....
The skirt is just an old sheer gold curtain panel wrapped around the base of the tree - but, it works!
 

So, there you have our tree for Christmas 2015.  I've been tweaking and working on photos of the rest of the decor - I don't just decorate the living room, you know!  Hopefully, I will have a tour of the rest of our cozy little cottage posted over the next few days.  By the way, I'm always posting over on Janie's Porch Facebook page, so hop on board and follow over there for daily updates.  

Back soon, sweet Friends!

Jane


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Blessed Mom of Goofy Boys....


It was wonderful to have all three of my children in one place for Thanksgiving!  I was one happy momma and couldn't seem to get enough hugs.  

We had a delicious feast featuring the traditional turkey and dressing.  And we shared lots of laughs - especially when I tried to herd Bonnie, Ben and Sam together for a new "Mom & Kids" photo.....  

Take #1 - Bonnie had the yawns
Almost, except Bonnie had the giggles
So, Ben kicked in with the faces...and Sam started with the bunny ears....
Which had us all laughing
And laughing some more...
And laughing (sensing a pattern here yet???)
I don't know....it just sort of went south at some point

I blame it mostly on the boys, though
Ben had this weird thing going on with his eyes....deliberately!  Bonnie and I got the giggles.  Sam kept moving out of the frame....it was just feeling futile....and so I finally said "Goofy Picture!"

And Ansleigh photobombed us!!!
But, I did manage to settle on one this one shot as the most acceptable.  


However, all the rest are just as precious to me!  Each time I look through them, I am reminded of what a fun evening it was....and how much my stomach hurt from laughing with my kids.  Now, how blessed is that?!?!?  

I hope your Thanksgiving was as relaxed and enjoyable as mine.  Let us keep that spirit of thankfulness in our hearts as we move into this holiday season!

Blessings, 


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Homemade Oatmeal Cookies - For Real!!!

Lately, I have gotten into the habit of baking up a batch of cookies on Sunday afternoon or evening.  (Don't know what has gotten into me.....especially since I didn't get around to this batch until Tuesday evening!)

My reasoning is that anything I make will undoubtedly be healthier and more enjoyable than anything I can buy at the market. 

Having said that, the amount of time and effort I put into baking is minimal - because, face it, by the time I get around to this part of the day, I am usually ready for some "down time" before the week starts.  When one works full time during the week, the weekends are usually spent catching up on the homefront - cleaning, laundry, shopping.  Baking gets allotted a pretty meager amount of time.....and I am willing to bet that most of you can relate!

To keep it simple, I generally start with a pre-packaged cookie mix.  (Yep, I am all over that whole semi-homemade thing!)  Our favorite is the Betty Crocker bag of Oatmeal cookie mix.  Super easy, super inexpensive, super quick - not 3 strikes there, but a total Home Run!!!  And I figure that since these are oatmeal based cookies, they have to be at least a little bit healthy....right?

Just melt a stick of butter (real butter - margarine does not enter this house!) in your large mixing bowl.  Add in one egg and 1 tablespoon of water; then stir in the bag of cookie mix.  To change it up and add a little texture, I generally add in about 1/2 of chopped walnuts (no exact measuring - I just grab a big handful out of the jar of chopped walnuts I keep around).  If I want the cookies to be really special, I add a handful of chopped dried cranberries!   

Now, the secret to keeping it easy peasy is to use parchment paper on your cookie sheet.  Do not skip this step!!!  (Have I mentioned that discovering parchment paper has changed my life?!?!?!?)  Bake in a 350 degree oven until they are just beginning to turn golden. Then remove from the oven, let sit a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet, then move them to paper towels to completely cool.  (Trust me, they stay a little softer and chewier than they will if you let them cool on a wire rack!) 

Parchment paper and paper towels - essentials in this baking venture!
This yields about 3-1/2 dozen cookies, which are just the right size for snagging for snacks.  In fact, you can eat 2, or even 3, without feeling too guilty!

So, next time you're in a hurry for a semi-healthy snack that tastes like you baked it from scratch (or, in my case, better than scratch), try these cookie mix cookies.  Your family will love you!!!


Stay well and be blessed, Friends!

Jane

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Wet Weather & Tree Problems

I've been burning a couple of days of vacation this week.  Being off on Thursday and Friday was a real treat, but it did feel a little weird not to get up and go in to the office. 

It rained pretty much both of those two days - good, heavy rains, which were sorely needed around here.  But, it tended to come down in deluges and we always have a problem with local street flooding when that happens.  I ended up staying home most of both days, simply because it was a mess outside and I had nowhere in particular I had to be.  That being said, I did enjoy quite a bit of down time, quiet time, lazy time.....and that was very nice.

It cooled off considerably during the night and I woke to hear the wind getting up a couple of times in the wee hours of the morning.  Eddie Dale was sweet enough to let me sleep in really, really late this morning.  But, when I finally dragged out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee, he had something to show me. 



Apparently, the wind blew a pretty large limb out of one of the trees right up by the patio and the back of the laundry room.  The weight of the limb was balanced precariously on our power, telephone and cable lines running from the pole at the back of the lot up to the house.  The husband was in a bit of a dilemma as to how to go about cutting the branches off the power line.....

WAIT!!!  No way are we going to cut anything with a clumsy pole saw that close to a power line!  I practically yelled.  Instead, I suggested, why don't we call AEP and have them come out and get the branches off the line???  After all, isn't that what we are supposed to do?  (And, please note, I never once used the word "crazy" to describe his suggested plan of attack with his blessed pole saw....)

He shrugged and went in to call AEP.  I guess the idea had simply not crossed his mind as he dwelled on how he could take care of the situation himself.  I am just thankful I did not wake to the sounds of him firing up his power saw....

We set about the business of waiting for someone to show up, praying that the wind didn't get up again or it didn't start pouring rain again and add weight to the branches already on the lines, causing them to snap.

Finally, after nearly six hours, a big heavy bucket truck lumbered to a stop in front of our house.  Within about 10 minutes, the two AEP workers had the branches cut and off the power line - safely!  And we are left with the debris to cut up and haul away once things dry out a bit. 



I am so thankful that we didn't end up with a downed power line.  And I am thankful for the extra down time we had while we waited.  We made chicken quesadillas for lunch and watched a sweet little movie on Netflix together.  Eddie Dale started a big pot of beans for supper simmering on the stove.  We raised the windows (just a little bit - it is a cool and cloudy 61 degrees, after all) and have enjoyed just being at home for the day.  I think the pups have enjoyed it, too! 

The lesson here is that sometimes you have to rely on others to help you.  There are some problems that you just can't handle safely on your own.  It only took those guys a few minutes to do what we could have struggled with for hours.  They had the right tools and the right training to accomplish the task safely.  We just had to be patient and wait for them to get to us and not plunge in willy nilly and risk getting hurt in the process.  

Tomorrow will be my last day off before returning to work.  I will need to dust, vacuum and clean a bit.  And catch up on mounds of laundry.  So, I have that to look forward to......but, the last three days of "taking it easy" have been totally worth it! 

Hope you are enjoying your weekend!

Jane





Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day Kickoff to Fall Decorating!

I hope all of you are enjoying the Labor Day weekend!  There is nothing better than a three day weekend, is there???  I've been able to find a good balance between being lazy and getting things accomplished - and that is quite a feat for me. 

Traditionally, this is the weekend I find time to put out my first layer of Fall decor.  And, true to form, I started dragging out stuff yesterday after giving the house a good cleaning.  In the last couple of years, I have done a better job of separating the Fall stuff from the Halloween stuff when packing things away, so this was a huge help! 

Since we don't have a fireplace, meaning "no mantle", I use this little sofa table as a display area in much the same way others decorate their mantle.  A lush garland filled with pumpkins, gourds, berries, sunflowers and leaves makes the perfect backdrop for some of my pumpkin and bird collection.  Battery operated mercury bulb lights are woven in with the garland and a couple of scented candles give this vignette a soft glow, day or night. 



The wreath that coordinates with the garland hangs on another wall.  Although I have had these for several years, I am still getting mileage out of them!


I absolutely love downloadable prints that pop up all around the blogosphere this time of year!  Here is one I just recently acquired, in a Goodwill find frame.  It was just $1.99!!!  I thought about painting it, but decided that the gold and wood tones worked just fine for this project and made it super simple to display in a hurry. My favorite thing is the colors - just perfect to bring some Fall tones into our living room which is heavy on the creams and aquas. 


Decor on the piano is super simple - another downloadable print and a chippy black crow nesting in an inexpensive candle ring. 



In the kitchen, I simply added some ceramic pumpkins on the buffet.  Oh, and another of those wonderful framed download prints!  The afternoon sunlight fills this area with terrific light, muted by the woven blinds and it is one of my favorite areas in the house to decorate simply.



A new pale blue cake stand from HomeGoods is featured on the kitchen table, along with a green painted tin pumpkin, which has been one of my favorites for years.  We are on our first batch of our favorite seasonal snack - a jar of dry roasted peanuts dumped in with a large bag of candy corn.  Yum!!!


After dinner last night, I lit some of the candles before we settled in for some chill time and the living room felt so cozy and inviting.  This is what it's all about, isn't it?  Creating a comfortable area to spend time with the ones you love, a place that wraps its arms around you and makes you never want to leave!

It's early in the season yet, so there is more to be added and lots of tweaking to do.  I haven't even touched the front porch yet!  But, at least, it's a start! Check back and follow along on Facebook and Instagram to see how things develop.

Thanks for stopping by....

Jane







Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Baked Chicken & Veggies With a Twist!

Howdy, y'all!

Is everyone getting in a Fall sort of mood?  I've been a pinning, Instagramming kind of fool lately, taking in a multitude of autumnal images....getting all inspired to drag out my bins of Fall decor this weekend.  Traditionally, I wait until Labor Day weekend to set out my first layer of pumpkins, leaves and such.  So, the countdown is on until time to get started! 

In the meantime, we have been really focused on eating healthy - which, for us, means cooking and dining at home most evenings.  I found a super simple recipe idea today and decided to try it out for dinner tonight.  It turned out awesome - definitely a keeper!  

Let's just say it is a new twist on baked chicken.  So, so simple........

I had two boneless, skinless chicken breasts already thawed out.  So, they went into the 9x13 glass baking dish first.  

Next, I quartered the six red potatoes that I already in the fridge.  They were nestled in one end of the baking dish, followed by a batch of fresh green beans on the other side of the chicken.  I had some prepackaged fresh, select sized green beans - they sure are convenient, all ready to go.  

Then I sprinkled a package of Italian salad dressing mix over everything and ground some fresh pepper over that.  No need for additional salt - there is plenty of salt in the dry dressing mix.  

Finally, I drizzled a stick of melted butter over everything and put the whole thing in a 350 degree oven for one hour.  I covered it with foil after the first 20 minutes, to keep the moisture in and prevent the veggies from getting too crispy.  Let it stand for about 5 minutes before serving. 

Finished result - absolute deliciousness!!!

 
So, there it is.  An easy to fix, cooks in one dish, dinner - perfect for those evenings when you have other things to do besides slave over a hot stove!  

I hope you're following along with my Facebook page and on Instagram.  I've been sharing some of the terrific stash I got on my first trip to HomeGoods this past weekend.  Would love to have you tag along, so check it out. 

Let's meet up again after the Fall decor makes its appearance at our cottage this weekend!  


Monday, July 27, 2015

Refreshing a "Not Beachy!" Kitchen....

Every once in a while, something comes along that inspires us to make changes.  This is something that inspired me......

The cup that started it all.....
You see, I was walking through the housewares department of Dillards one afternoon, and this lovely pale aqua cup spoke to me......literally called my name......"Jane, Jane, take me home with you!"  

Finding it odd that a coffee cup would make such an effort to speak out loud, I couldn't resist its plea to come to Janie's Porch.  So, home we came and enjoyed many a fine morning together. 

Then one morning, the cup spoke to me and again.....well, really, it was more of a whisper.  It said, "I'm lonely.  Surround me with some more lovely shades of blue, teal and turquoise - just to keep me company, Jane."

Again, how could I resist???

So began the gradual journey of chasing the red, gold and black out of our cozy little kitchen/dining area.  Instead, I longed for soft blues, teals, turquoise....the colors of shimmering seas.  (Or, maybe sea glass....but, I am definitely avoiding the word "beachy" here....)

The walls were already a muted and so-soft shade of mossy green, so they were easy to keep.  (Thank goodness, no painting was involved, or else I would still just be dreaming about this project....)  They look totally different with the addition of different accessories (and the removal of others).

We added a great deal of storage by bringing in an industrial strength metal shelving unit.  (Good ol' Lowes - this unit cost me well under $100!)  Since we don't have a pantry, we are using it to store a variety of kitchen items, with the bottom shelf reserved especially for our pups' stuff.  Have you ever used "S" hooks?  They are totally awesome and I hung coffee mugs, freeing up shelf space!  I am thinking about hanging a couple of my smaller copper bottom sauce pans on the underside of the top shelf....

Why, yes, I do have a large bag of snack-size chip hanging on the side.  Hey, this is real life!
Moving the microwave over here freed up counter top space.  We used 1/4 inch birch plywood to make "liners" for a couple of the shelves.
 The island-turned-buffet was shifted into the "dining area", in front of these terrific double windows that allow for tons of afternoon sun (and, in the summer, plenty of heat....but, it is what it is!)

And there is Pepper photobombing and sniffing an unopened package of her pricey dog food!
 My first impression was that it was too big for the space - probably because I've always something a bit smaller (read, dinkier) in this spot.  But, after a few days and some fun styling, I am totally on board with the buffet's new location.  The large woven baskets to corral clutter on the lower shelves were terrific finds at TJ Maxx (and they hide a multitude of sins...)

I bought this island/buffet at Big Lots in Amarillo about 6 years ago. It is real butcher block and super heavy - a steal for $149! 
 I also dressed the table out a bit differently.  I finally made it out to Pier 1 and used the gift card my mom gave me way back at Christmas.  I adore the table runner that was clearanced out for less than $10!  TJ Maxx to the rescue with a fabulous woven plastic basket for snacks (it really looks like wicker, doesn't it?!?!?).  And the little turquoise creamer (which needs to be restocked with drinking straws) was so darn cute - I knew I could put it to use somewhere.

It's a "magic" little creamer - see how it's there, and then it's not?  It's called tweaking right in the middle of taking photos....
I refreshed the corner hutch with only my favorite pieces.  And I love how the crystal bowl filled with faux pears ties in with other artwork on the adjoining wall. 

The best thing I've ever done is lose the rug under the table - this is so much easier to keep clean with dogs.
I worked on the weird little cubby in the wall yesterday - and have turned that into a makeshift little bar.  But, I am still tweaking on that.....and the jury is still out.  


As things continue along, I will share more photos.  Mostly likely they will pop up on Janie's Porch Facebook page and Instagram.  So, if you're not already following along there, check out the links over there in the right column >>>>> and tag along with me on a more spontaneous basis!  

Hoping you have a blessed week and we visit again soon, sweet friends. 
Jane
xoxo
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