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 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 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!


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!


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!


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....


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. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Summer Vacation.....CHECK!!!

Recently, Eddie Dale and I were able to get away for a little much needed vacation.  

I haven't really been on a get away like this for over a year.  So, I have really been looking forward to it for weeks.....oh!  Who am I kidding?!?!?  I was clinging to the thought of this vacation as if it were a lifeline and I was flailing in the middle of the ocean...

Anyway, we loaded up the dogs, hooked up the RV and took off for a new destination - Inks Lake State Park.  Although it wasn't our first choice - Blanco State Park was still closed due to the recent flood - we were determined to love it.  And, we did! 

It is a beautiful lake and there is quite a bit to do in the way of activities.  

We went fishing - not once, but twice.  I hadn't been fishing since I was a child.  However, Eddie is a very patient and capable angler.  He was wonderful about loading (and reloading) my hook with big, fat worms!  I had a few nibbles, but didn't catch anything.  But, it was really a lot of fun - even though the spiders on the fishing pier were everywhere!

The sunsets were awesome!  They made the spiders bearable....

We had tubes for floating in our little cove of the lake - so relaxing.  (However, I do not particularly care for the feel of little fishies brushing past my legs and feet in the murky lake water....)

And, we lugged our bicycles down for a little riding.  (During which I discovered that, despite rehab, I still don't have all the strength back in my leg since my hip replacement!) 

We ate very well!  We always take our little portable grill with us and cook outside as much as possible.  Thanks to the HEB in Burnet, we had some fresh corn on the cob with our grilled chicken kabobs one evening.  At 12 cents an ear, it is a bargain and it was super sweet and tasty cooked on the grill.  

We rub it with real butter and salt free fajita seasoning and wrap it in foil and roast it that way above the hot coals. 

One evening we took a break from cooking and went to a little cafe we discovered just a few miles from the state park.  It was attached to a little convenience store and they advertised a dinner special - hamburger & fries for $5!  So, we decided to check it out.  And, it was absolutely delicious and the service was fantastic! 

In addition to biking and swimming, we rented a double kayak early one morning.  It was a wonderful experience!  I really did like it and I feel that my upper body strength is much better than my lower body.   We were on the water for just under an hour.  However, after spending another hour or so actually in the water, I got a pretty intense sunburn.  I haven't really been out in the sun much the last couple of years, so I didn't use enough sunscreen.  Ouch!

Consequently, we had to find indoor, out of the sun, activities for our last full day.  I twisted Ed's arm and he took me into Burnet for a little junkin'.  We found a really great shop that totally inspired me to come home and rework a few things in my own cottage!  My day was made, though, when I found a copy of a book I've been wanting to read for ages - for just $1.49!!!  This is one of those reads that is so interesting - I find it hard to put down!

It just makes me want to watch Julie & Julia over and over......

By the time we had to head home, we were ready.  It's always a little sad to strike camp, but it's always wonderful to get home!  Our little cottage - and our own bed - feels so wonderful!!!

Tomorrow is back to work for me.  However, I am feeling rested and relaxed....and rarin' to go!  It's amazing what a few days away from the routine will do for a body and soul.  

Hope you have the opportunity to do a little unwinding this summer....


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